10th Mountain Division Hut Association
The Aspen-based, non-profit 10th Mountain Division Hut Association was formed in the early ’80s by 10th Mountain Division veteran Fritz Benedict, along with some other Aspenites. Its origins date back to pre-World War II, however, when the U.S. War Department began training mountain troops for combat at Camp Hale, located near Colorado’s Eagle River Valley on Tennessee Pass.
Camp Hale’s high-altitude location near Leadville was selected as the army training grounds for over 11,000 men at the end of 1942. Charles “Minnie” Minot Doyle, the founder of the National Ski Patrol, was the first to suggest that the U.S. Army train troops in winter combat, survival, animal packing, and skiing tactics.
In 1945, following their training at Camp Hale, thousands of soldiers were deployed to the Apennine Mountains of Italy, to assist with liberating the country. The losses were severe- nearly 1,000 ski troopers were killed, and over 4,000 wounded. The battle was established as having the highest casualty rate of any U.S. division in the Mediterranean.
Benedict and his friends established the hut system as an active memorial to the fallen soldiers. Today, there are 29 huts connected by 350 miles of suggested routes (unlike many other alpine huts around the world, the 10th Mountain system was designed to connect the cabins). Many 10th Mountain vets were also key figures in the founding of some of North America’s most famous ski resorts, including Aspen and Vail.
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