Whenever a transitioning Service member asks me “What should I do next?”, I like to point out the Riva Ridge ski run at Vail for some inspiration.
Today, Feb 18th is the anniversary of the 10th Mountain Division (10th Mtn,) assault on Riva Ridge. This assault on Riva Ridge enabled the further assault on Mt Belvedere, in the Italian Apennine mountain range. The German military had entrenched their defenses in the “Gothic Line” and were told to die defending it, while blocking allied movement to the north. This was the first combat the 10th Mtn. saw as unit, and despite the casualties, was an incredible success. Many other units had failed.
The 10th Mountain Division is the first, and I believe the only, unit that was lobbied for by US civilians. Charles “Minnie“ Dole, who founded the US National Ski Patrol, was inspired by the Finnish success against the Russians. He saw the need for the United States to develop a team of specialized, winter-operating troops. He the presented this idea to Army Chief of Staff, General George Marshall, who then approved the establishment of the 10th Mountain Division. “It’s easier to make a skier a soldier than a soldier a skier”, General Marshall said.
Among other things, the Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division accomplished the following:
Invented/integrated the Snowmobile, the SnowCat AKA the “M29 Weasel” (When testing the SnowCat, the report included the comment “it floats”…they were not asked to test buoyancy).
Developed rudimentary chairlifts and winter/mountain medicine and climbing techniques.
Were responsible, in part, for the modern US Ski industry. They can be credited with founding or being key to the success of A-Basin, Aspen, Vail and at least 62 other ski resorts across the United States. They even cut a “Hut to Hut” route from Vail to Aspen.
So today we would like to salute the 10th Mountain Division and thank them for all that they have contributed to not only the US Military, but to our way of life in America.