(repost from Epic ski)
Book Review - "Climb To Conquer: The Untold Story of World War II's 10th Mountain Division Ski Troops" by Peter Shelton
After hearing a story about the 10th Mountain Division on NPR a few months ago, I talked about it so much that my wife must have made a mental note to pick out a book for my Christmas stocking (she's clever like that). She chose well; "Climb to Conquer" is written by Peter Shelton, a contributing editor at SKI magazine, and has a wonderful perspective any skier can appreciate. I won't go into a lot of detail to avoid spoiling the story, but Shelton starts with the origin of the 10th Mountain Division out of National Ski Patrol, talks about their training on Mt. Rainier and later in Colorado, their deployment and battles in Europe, and their contribution to the ski industry after the war.
This latter part is impressive and amazing, as 10th Mountain veterans founded many of the major ski resorts across the country (Aspen, A-Basin, Vail, Bachelor, Crystal, Sugarbush, Pico, and Seven Springs, among many others), contributed to the development of ski filming, ski equipment, lifts, and infrastructure, and started giants like K2, Nike, Sierra Club, and Heron (later part of Poma). Sixty-two ski areas were managed by, or had ski schools managed by, 10th Mountain vets, and over two thousand of them became ski instructors across the country. Men of the 10th Mountain division were truly like founding fathers of skiing. These guys had an amazing can-do spirit and attitude that still pervades many aspects of skiing to this day. All of us here on Epic benefit from their contributions to skiing, and can identify with their love for and dedication to the sport.
Of course, a major part of the book is WW II history, and it's a great book from that standpoint. The 10th Mountain Division played a key part in driving the German army out of Italy towards the end of the war, including one battle where they mounted an assault on German positions by climbing up the side of a 1500 ft. cliff in the Italian Apennines, breaking through what the Germans considered to be an impenetrable line of natural defense. This was followed by several battles in which the 10th played major roles and suffered many losses. There is no doubt about the seriousness and grim reality of war when reading this book, but the account is also peppered with many stories of good times involving liberation, camaraderie with locals and the enemy, skiing, and mountaineering experienced by the troops after the fighting was over.
I'll close with a great little story from the prologue that really sucked me into the book, and sort of characterizes what laid ahead. The squad skied quietly uphill until sometime after sunrise, when they spotted a lone German in camoflage whites standing on a connecting ridge. The patrol's orders included bringing back prisoners if possible, so the squad leader called out for the trooper to halt, put his hands on his head, and "come in." A beat elapsed. Then another. Then the German jumped his skis 90 degrees into the fall line and schussed straight down the steep slope in front of him -- "like going down Tuckerman's" Lovett thought. "He was some skier." So impressed were the Americans that no one even thought to take a shot at him as he fled.
In summary, this was a great read, not only for it's interesting stories, but also for the historical content about the war and especially about the impact on the ski industry. I give this book a very high recommendation for anyone interested in skiing, skiing history, and war history.
Here's a link to the book on Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/Climb-Conquer-Unto...00242192&sr=1-1