Of soldiers and snow and one man's vision

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Colorado's Haute Route

Of soldiers and snow and one man's vision
Aspen architect Fritz Benedict dreamed of a hut system to honor his fellow vets of the Tenth Mountain Division
The trail and hut system was named in honor of the Tenth Mountain Division of the U.S. Army, elite ski troops who trained in mountaineering, skiing, and alpine survival techniques during World War II. The division of 15,000 men underwent rigorous mountain training in Colorado before fighting critical battles in the Dolomites of Italy near the end of the war in 1945.

Much of the territory covered by the system was originally part of the troops' training grounds. The list of soldiers who later became key figures in the emerging ski industry reads like a Who's Who of the nation's ski history, from Vail founder Pete Seibert to Jack Murphy, who established Vermont's Sugarbush. Another notable Tenth Mountain Division alumnus is Senator Bob Dole.

Many soldiers returned to Colorado after the war. One of these was architect Fritz Benedict, a key player in the design of Aspen, Vail, and other ski-area towns. Inspired by Europe's famous Haute Route, Benedict had long dreamed of a building a similar system to honor the troops who trained in the area, and to provide backcountry skiers challenging and beautiful routes through the Colorado high country.

In 1980 Benedict formed a group of architects, planners, and skiers to plan the system, and work soon began on the first two huts. These were made possible by the support of former secretary of defense Robert McNamara. One bears his name; the other, Margy's Hut, is named in honor of McNamara's late wife.

Today, the hut association operates ten huts and takes reservations for five private huts as well as other connecting hut systems. Future plans call for completion of the loop between Aspen and Vail, and links to the Summit County Hut Association's hut system.

Donations from individuals and foundations pay for hut construction. Endowments and memberships cover a portion of the operating costs, which help keep the fees low for skiers.

For more information, contact the Tenth Mountain, 1280 Ute Ave., Suite 21, Aspen, CO 81611. 970-925-5775

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

Filed To: Snow Sports

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