From sand to snow: Arapahoe Basin treats special forces troops to a day of skiing after duty in Iraq |

From sand to snow: Arapahoe Basin treats special forces troops to a day of skiing after duty in Iraq

ARAPAHOE BASIN – While snow blanketed Summit County in March, Sgt. 1st Class Doug Lane was watching the shifting sands pile up in northern Iraq.

In the field as the chief medical officer for the Army’s 10th Special Forces unit out of Fort Carson, Lane was focused on the mission at hand, but he couldn’t help think about the fresh powder he was missing. Once he was able to get Internet access, the part-time Monarch ski patroller read about the snowstorms on the Summit Daily News’ Web site.

“I kept thinking about all the snow we were missing,” Lane said Thursday, sitting on the deck at Arapahoe Basin’s lodge. “Our colonel kept telling us we’d be back for the last turns of the season. I held him to it. Then, as we got closer to the end of our tour, he told me to give Arapahoe Basin a call.”

The 10th’s Third Battalion arrived home late last month. The unit is heir to the historical legacy of the 10th Mountain Division, the World War II band of soldiers on skis who trained at Camp Hale near Leadville.

Back in Colorado, Lane found the Basin was more than willing to host the war-weary soldiers – Arapahoe Basin provided complimentary lift tickets for 110 of the soldiers, and an anonymous donor chipped in money to give the troops a 50 percent discount on lunch.

“It’s worked out great,” Lane said.

The unit regularly trains for alpine reconnaissance and combat, but Thursday was more of a fun day for the soldiers. Dressed in their camouflage fatigues, most of the soldiers stepped in to alpine touring bindings. The unit has its own gear for training purposes. Some also tried snowboarding.

The skill level of the troops varied from intermediate free-heelers to some still working on their snowplow technique. But even the novices said they were enjoying it.

“It’s fun, but it’s hard,” said Spc. Terrence McDuffie, a native of Virginia who decided to walk the last part of his first run down. “The unit was coming up, so I decided I might as well try it.”

Spc. Robert Brock has visited the High Country to ski in the past, and said he was able enough to tackle black diamond trails. Skiing, unfortunately, doesn’t come back as easy as the proverbial bike ride.

“It’s amazing what you forget after a couple months in the desert,” Brock said negotiating a turn.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or

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