10th Mountain Division Exhibit at the American Mountaineering Museum

In 1939, the President of the National Ski Patrol, Charles Dole, heard reports of Finnish troops on skis defeating Russian forces, even though they were outnumbered, because of their preparedness for the winter conditions.

Dole began lobbying for a similar ‘mountain’ brigade in the United States, and in 1940 the National Ski Patrol became the only civilian army recruiter, helping to enlist experienced skiers for the division.

The 10th Mountain Division was created during World War II in 1943 as a light infantry unit specially trained for fighting in mountainous and arctic conditions. The troops trained in harsh conditions on Mt. Rainier and set their base camp at Camp Hale, near Leadville in Colorado.

During the war, the 10th Mountain Division soldiers fought in the mountains of Italy and Austria, travelling mainly by skis and fighting in some of the roughest winter conditions, using the terrain to their advantage. Near the end of the war the troops gained fame with their daring nighttime attacks on German forces in the high Apennine Mountains of Italy.

Equipment was specifically designed for these troops including winter clothing and skis. Much of the research for these designs helped lead outdoor gear to what we use today. The 10th Mountain Division left a legacy of 29 back country huts and 350 miles of connecting trails in the mountains of Colorado. Many veterans of the troop brought their experience and love of the mountains back with them after the war and went on to turn it into a career such as Peter Seibert who founded Vail Ski Resort, Paul Petzoldt who founded National Outdoor Leadership School, and Bill Bowerman who created Nike shoes.

Find artifacts, equipment and stories from the 10th Mountain Division at the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum, the only museum in the nation dedicated to the heroism and history of mountaineering.