Veterans of the 10th Mtn. Division make their mark on the post-war economy and the ski industry
Upon entering World War II in early 1945, the 10th Mountain Division was able to tip the balance in the Allies favor by the spring. Suffering tremendous casualties, the 10th successfully captured Italy’s northernmost Apennine Mountains from the German stronghold. Rushing towards the Po Valley, the Allied soldiers had opened a gap, and the German Army quickly surrendered.Without the heroic and crucial accomplishments of the 10th Mountain Division, the Allies would not have been able to break the German Gothic line in northern Italy and put an expedient end to World War II. Those who had survived in the 10th Mountain Division finally went home, for good, and started a life after the war.Before the 10th Mountain Division soldiers had returned from Europe, they had already impacted the reviving ski industry. The Army had released a surplus of equipment for sale: about 100,000 pairs of skis, bindings, poles and boots. Practically new and at a sharply discounted price, many people who otherwise would never have been able to afford to ski were able to try the sport. Even the original developers of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine explored the area in the mid-1940s using Army surplus ski equipment. However, the Army surplus equipment was not the highest quality, and in 1947 Howard Head set out to design “a ski that was easier to use, less breakable and delivered more for the money than a wooden ski.” His first prototype, the aluminum sandwich ski with a lightweight core, broke easily, so he tried making skis with a plywood core and pressure bonded aluminum. These skis, known as the Head Standard, became the first successful skis that consisted of multiple components and were known as “prestige skis” in Europe due to the high quality – and high price. Wealthy recreational skiers could afford these skis, priced at $85, and would enjoy that they turned easier, lasted longer and worked better in almost all types of snow. In a post-war economy, Americans were finally ready to relax for the first time since the early 1940s, and spent 34 percent of their time in leisure activities. Increased time for leisure, more money and better transportation options helped push middle-class Americans toward the slopes.The number of cars on the road increased, providing the middle class with easy transportation and an opportunity to consume. Improved roads and highways brought Americans easily to the slopes. As seen in the ski industry of the 1930s, ski areas needed reliable transportation in order to succeed.Faster and superior transportation, better snow technology, new equipment that reduced the learning curve combined with new ski fashions and ski schools helped make recreational skiing accessible in America after the war – all with the help, directly and indirectly, of the 10th Mountain Division veterans.
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