Press "Enter" to skip to content

Camp Hale proposed for National Historic site

Brief by Central Staff

History – September 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

The storied 10th Mountain Division of World War II held its last official reunion Aug. 1-5 in Denver, with an optional additional day on Aug. 6 that involved a visit to Leadville and the site of Camp Hale, just over Tennessee Pass.

The division was formed in 1942 to produce soldiers for winter mountain fighting, and so they learned to ski, climb, rappel, and survive in the cold. The division put its training to work in early 1945 when the Allied invasion of Italy reached the Alps.

As for Camp Hale, where they trained, some buildings remained after World War II. During the 1950s, it was the site of a top-secret operation to train Tibetan guerrillas and Hui Muslims for resistance operations against the People’s Republic of China after its takeover of Tibet.

Eventually, the Army gave the site to the U.S. Forest Service. Some foundations and bunkers remain, and every so often, someone finds a piece of ordnance. Ski Cooper, at the top of Tennessee Pass, is on the site of Camp Hale’s primitive ski lift, and there’s a memorial there to the 912 10th Mountain soldiers who were killed in action during World War II.

Now two Colorado congressmen, who don’t agree on much else, have agreed to look into making Camp Hale a National Historic Site.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican whose district includes Lake County, and Rep. Scott Udall, a Democrat whose district includes Eagle County, have jointly introduced a bill to direct the Secretary of the Interior to study the feasibility of establishing a National Historic Site at Tennessee Pass and Camp Hale.

Camp Hale had a major effect on Colorado history — many of the founders of the state’s major ski areas were 10th Mountain vets who liked what they saw and did while training in Colorado.

The 10th Mountain Division was disbanded on Nov. 30, 1945, but was re-established in 1985 with headquarters at Ft. Drum, N.Y.