This story first aired on 1/13/2015.
Extreme skier Chris Anthony went to high school about 30 minutes from Camp Hale, a former U.S. Army training facility constructed in the early 1940s near Leadville. But he didn’t fully understand the significance of what took place there until later in life.
“Living in Vail Valley in Colorado, you hear about this 10th Mountain Division,” Anthony says. “You see these tributes all over, and it just made me that much more intrigued to find out who they were.”
Five years ago, this fascination inspired him to create a documentary about the men of the 10th Mountain Division, the “soldiers on skis” who helped America and its allies win World War II. The film is called “Climb to Glory: The Legacy of the 10th Mountain Division.” It dives into the brutal training these veterans endured at Camp Hale, their time in combat and how they pioneered Colorado’s ski industry after they returned from war.
The film weaves together interviews with the surviving soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, archival footage and some humor. It first appeared as a short segment in 2012, produced by sports action film company Warren Miller Entertainment. In January 2013, the full 45-minute documentary received a soft theatrical release in Colorado and is now available as a DVD at the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum near Vail.
Anthony appears in the film, alongside 10th Mountain Division descendants Scott Kennett and Tony Seibert -- who died during an avalanche near Vail last January. At one point, the three highly skilled skiers don the same cumbersome gear and 90 pound backpacks the division’s soldiers wore.
Anthony says the experience was “humbling.”
The 10th Mountain Division
The 10th Mountain Division ski troopers faced many challenges during their time at Camp Hale. They trained in deep snow, on non-groomed slopes. And they carried 90 pound backpacks while navigating the rough terrain.
“And I thought they were gonna kill us all off,” veteran Hugh Evans says in the film. “Sleeping out in temperatures down to 30 below zero without a tent... We slept on top of our skis. We learned the tricks of the trade to survive. It was a survival exercise.”
In 1944, the soldiers had to put their mountain survival skills to test after they were transported to the Italian Alpini Mountains to fight in the war. It was the first time many of them had been in combat -- and many did not return.
During their months overseas, nearly 1,000 troopers lost their lives. It was one of the largest number of casualties in the shortest amount of time any U.S. military division had suffered.
After the war, many of these veterans returned to Colorado and reinvented the state’s ski industry.
“Even if they didn’t build things, they were here working,” Anthony says. “The guys were running chair lifts, opening bars, working the ski shops, doing anything to stay connected with the Colorado culture and the mountains.”
Their efforts also helped democratize the winter sport.
“It really did, all of a sudden, make the sport more approachable for everybody,” Anthony says.
An educational tool
Education and youth are often at the forefront of the pro skier’s mind. For the last 16 years, Anthony has been heading outreach efforts through his own program, the Chris Anthony Youth Initiative Project.
Last October, Anthony launched his most recent educational tour, taking "Climb to Glory" into classrooms across Colorado.
“The creation of ‘Climb to Glory’ allowed me to have material to walk into the classroom with that had both an academic presence, as well as a humor presence and something the kids would be inspired by,” Anthony says.
Anthony’s goal is to reach 10,000 grade-school students from varying socioeconomic and racial backgrounds with this documentary. As of the start of the new year, 7,000 kids had seen the film.
“There’s so many teachable moments in showing this documentary, not just about the skiing, but the Colorado history and the world history," Anthony says.
Click the audio above to hear Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner speak with professional skier Chris Anthony about the documentary "Climb to Glory: The Legacy of the 10th Mountain Division."