VAIL, Colo. (CBS4)– World War II veterans who were part of the 10th Mountain Division and trained on the slopes in Colorado were reunited this week.
The 90-year-old veterans are still doing what the Army trained them to do decades later- ski!
“This is our annual skiing trip and it’s 35 or something. I don’t know, we’ve been doing it for years,” said 10th Mountain Division veteran Dick Dirkes.
They hit the slopes at Vail to tell stories and reminisce.
“We’re a fine group of men, those of us who are left and those of us who are passed, we have pleasant memories of them,” said Dirkes.
“The training here bonded us as a division and the training was very rigorous, especially the D series which was six weeks living in the snow and ice,” said 10th Mountain Division veteran Hugh Evans.
They learned skills at Camp Hale near Leadville. The Ski Troopers were an experiment by the Army in the early 1940s.
“The training at Camp Hale built the bond of the 10th Mountain Division,” said Evans.
For nearly 40 years the veterans have been coming back to Colorado.
“There used to be busloads, right? Now you got three skiers, I think, and I’m one of them. I really do ski better than I can walk,” said Dirkes.
The three veterans who met at Vail this week are Hugh Evans, Dick Dirkes and Jimmy Nasser.
“Once you learn how to ski you just stand up, really,” said Dirkes.
They went down a run called Riva Ridge which has special significance this year.
“It’s the 70th anniversary of our taking Mt. Belvedere and Riva Ridge and Gogalesco,” said Evans.
That was a vital set of mountains in Italy captured by the 10th Mountain Division. The troops were able to push back the Nazis.
“The 10th was unique in a sense that they captured terrain that was unassailable. So they do have a wonderful reputation and they had a very heavy combat loss,” said Dirkes.
“Completely surprised the Germans. They didn’t realize that we could climb that,” said Evans.
It all started with training in Colorado. Now the three friends hope to reunite next year to mark 71 years since taking Riva Ridge. Then they can honor their friends again.
Many of the 10th Mountain Division veterans returned to Colorado after WWII and helped establish the ski industry as we know it.