History buffs traveling to Vail this summer are in for a surprising treat: Vail's Camp Hale is an undiscovered gem that is packed with unique World War II history.
I would have never guessed that a ski town in the middle of America played a role in history's most well-known war, but Vail is full of surprises. Today, scenic Camp Hale is home to snowmobile tours, but once upon a time, it was used to train American ski soldiers in mountain warfare techniques. Mountain climbing, Alpine and Nordic skiing, cold-weather survival, and weaponry (ALSO ON SKIS!) were all practiced at Camp Hale. The men that trained here became the 10th Mountain Division, and they were a tough bunch! During one training exercise, the men went into the snow for 45 days in temperatures 45 degrees below zero. There, they cooked, bathed themselves, practiced first aid, and held combat maneuvers, proving that they could operate successfully at a 10,000 to 12,000-foot elevation in 8 to 14 feet of snow.
After two years of training, the men of the 10th Mountain Division were sent to Italy ahead of the U.S. Army. They played a key role in liberating northern Italy.
Even if you weren't previously familiar with Camp Hale's 10th Mountain Division, odds are you are familiar with some of what the group's veterans have accomplished. One veteran started the National Outdoor Leadership School in Wyoming, which teaches U.S. Navy Seals mountain and winter survival techniques. Another used the design of Camp Hale's special mountain shoes as inspiration for recreational wear and founded the world-famous Nike brand. A third veteran opened Vail Resort!
If you're interested in exploring Camp Hale and hearing more about its enthralling history, then you should take a tour with a company such as Nova Tours! In the winter, you can snowmobile through the valley, and in the summer, you can take an ATV tour. The guides are well-versed on Camp Hale's history, so make sure to bring a list of questions!
There are so many stories to uncover in Vail- why wait to visit?