Synthetic rubber, sulfa drugs, nuclear power - those are a few of the better-known medical and technological byproducts of war. Less known is that World War II also spawned the snowmobile, the snowcat and the modern ski industry.
Those are some of the stories told in
Fire on the Mountain, a film that documents the history of the 10th
Mountain Division, an elite corps trained to fight in snowy,
mountainous terrain. The division was the brainchild of National
Ski Patrol System inventor Charles "Minnie" Dole. Roughly a year
after Dole wrote to President Roosevelt suggesting the idea of a
ski-patrol infantry, the Army began recruiting the nation's best
skiers and mountaineers to train at Fort Hale near Leadville, Colo.
The division's most prominent battle was the
1945 assault on Italy's Riva Ridge, during which the men scaled a
2,000-foot cliff at night. The film, written and produced by
Colorado filmmakers Beth and George Gage, combines excellent
vintage footage with recent interviews with men who fought in the
division. Many later became leaders in the ski industry, outdoor
education and the environmental movement: environmentalist David
Brower; Fritz Benedict, the architect of Vail and Snowmass Village;
and Bill Bowerman, the founder of Nike. After the war, some 2,000
of the 10,000 men found jobs developing or working in the ski
The film is available for $33 on video.
Contact Gage and Gage Productions, P.O. Box 2526, Telluride, CO