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Last weekend, Pagosa Springs was host to the veterans and descendants of the 10th Mountain Division. The 10th Mountain Division came into being in 1943, when it was identified by the United States Army that an elite ski force was needed to fight in the mountainous areas of Italy. The idea of ski soldiers was borrowed from the Finnish who had used such forces to battle the Russians and the Germans in its history. A total of 15,000 soldiers were trained in mountain climbing, alpine and Nordic skiing, cold-weather survival, weaponry and more at Camp Hale, located on Tennessee Pass, near Leadville, Colo. Camp Hale is now a recreation area and overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, but still bears remnants of the original 1943 troop training facility. The old ski training facility, Ski Cooper, still operates today as a regular ski resort.
After the war, many of the 10th Mountain Division soldiers who trained at Camp Hale returned to Colorado or their native states to start what would become a robust ski industry. Many of the soldiers’ descendants are also skiers. As the 10th Mountain Division World War II veterans age, their descendants are carrying on their legacy through the organization, The 10th Mountain Division Descendants, Inc.
My father, George Loudis (86-H), is one of the few veterans still living in Colorado. I am very proud to be a descendant, but I must say that this past weekend, I was equally proud to showcase our fantastic community. Pagosa Springs pulled out all of the stops and welcomed this group with open arms! Special thanks to CK and Neel of the Quality Resort and Suites who arranged accommodations, a wonderful dinner and their new sign that brought us some unexpected guests — including a young veteran from the 10th Mountain Division Light. Thank you to the Pagosa Baking Company for providing lunch, the community center for the use of Yamaguchi Park, the Chamber for providing important information and to Ann Bubb for her assistance and support.
These veterans are our treasures and their descendants are working hard to keep their legacy alive. Thank you, Pagosa, for supporting this important group!