Chris Anthony is on a mission to tell the forgotten tale of a WWII ski race

John LaConte
Vail Daily

VAIL — One of the best stories in international ski racing is the first competition to take place after the end of fighting in Europe following World War II, a story that was unknown in the United States until recently.

Through a career in storytelling with Warren Miller ski films, Chris Anthony is now poised to tell the story in the medium he knows best, the ski movie.

Anthony intends to reverse the unknown status of the first international ski race following the end of World War II in Europe — Japan had still yet to surrender — by taking his work directly from the field to the classroom. In addition to ski movies, Anthony’s other area of expertise is creating educational enrichment opportunities for youths through his nonprofit organizations, which have reached approximately 42,000 students over the past seven years.

All of this makes Anthony the perfect person to ensure the next generation of skiers, mountaineers and historians knows the story of “Mission Mangart” and how a group of 10th Mountain Division soldiers made their way to present-day Slovenia during World War II to help organize and take part in a ski race on Mangart, a mountain in the Julian Alps.

Anthony has received support from a variety of people and organizations, both foreign and domestic, and is now nearing the home stretch of his production. He is hoping to debut the film on June 3, 2020, exactly 75 years to the date from when the race took place in 1945.

‘The Great Race’

The film will take viewers from Anthony exploring Mangart and learning the 10th Mountain Division had been there to Camp Hale, where they will learn about the incredible role Deborah Bankart and a large group of women had in the 10th Mountain Division, to the war zones of Italy, where 24 10th Mountain Division soldiers went missing in action in Lake Garda when their duck boat sank.

Anthony will then take viewers back to Mangart, where they will get an idea of what this ski race might have looked like. A group of 30-or-so locals from the small mountain town of Bovec, Slovenia, helped Anthony move large boulders to access the road to Mangart, which had been covered in avalanche debris, and trek the final stretch to the snowfield where the race took place. They then recreated the race on film.

Those locals refer to the 1945 contest as “The Great Race.”

“The commitment and dedication from a community of people — in a country where I don’t even speak their language — who have gotten behind a stranger, me, to recreate this, was remarkable,” Anthony said. “That put the pressure on me that I need to complete this, that this is way bigger than me.”

Help from local sources

Anthony received support in a variety of other amazing ways, both above and below ground. A drone pilot has shown great interest in his work and given him the necessary aerial footage needed of the area, and the organizers of a submarine mission to the bottom of Lake Garda made sure to contact Anthony before heading down there to look for the missing boat of the 10th troops. The Slovenian military has helped out, Mikaela Shiffrin has helped out and you can help out, as well.

Anthony will visit any school or community group to tell the story, free of charge. When the Vail Rotary heard of his efforts, they invited Anthony to tell their members about the first international ski race to take place following World War II in Europe.

“The story hadn’t been told. People didn’t know about it, and we want to help that story get told,” said Penny Wilson with the Vail Rotary Club.

The club then surprised Anthony with a $5,000 check.

“We wanted to support this project because of the importance of the 10th Mountain Division to Vail and Colorado,” Wilson said. “And we want to see it propagated out into the schools, so it’s not just a recording of the story, but a telling of the story, so people will know about it in the future.”

Anthony said donations like that one are what will help him get to the finish line with this project.

“I’m now in post-production, which is where it gets expensive, because I’m paying for archival footage,” he said.

That investment in archival footage, however, doubles as a public service in itself.

“Down at the Denver Public Library, there’s boxes and boxes of stuff in their storage which hasn’t been digitized,” Anthony said. “Like Deborah Bankart — you can’t find much information on her online, but now I’m paying to have her photos and things digitized. So now, since I’m funding that, it will be open to public domain.

“All of this costs money,” Anthony added, “but it’s worth the investment, because then everybody has access to it.”

You can donate to “Mission Mangart” by visiting and hitting the donate button in the upper left corner of the screen.

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