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Documentary Highlights Colorado Mountain Troops

VAIL, Colo. (AP) - Professional skier Chris Anthony's curiosity about the 10th Mountain Division troops who trained a mere 30 miles from the Eagle Valley has blossomed into an hour-long documentary film - a film intended to teach children about the troops and keep their history alive.

The new Warren Miller film, "Climb to Glory: Legacy of the 10th Mountain Ski Troopers," is set to premiere Jan. 17 in Denver. It tells the story of the thousands of men who trained at Camp Hale, many of whom later went to battle in World War II, and how their passion for skiing transformed the U.S. ski industry after the war.

It's a film that Colorado Ski & Snowboard Museum Executive Director Susie Tjossem already cherishes - not only does it feature the history and the wonderful skiing that went along with it, but it does so in a way that should appeal to younger generations.

"The whole premise was for us to have a communication vehicle that attracted the younger demographics," Tjossem said.

The film brings the Warren Miller Entertainment style that showcases adventure skiing, music and humor together with the rich history of the 10th Mountain Division.

Anthony, who has appeared in Warren Miller ski films for over two decades, hosted two of the veterans featured in the film for a special day in Vail and in Camp Hale on Jan. 3.

Dick Dirks, 88, skied Riva Ridge - the run named after the Battle of Riva Ridge, a major turning point in the war and a major accomplishment for the ski troops - with Anthony and a large group of local kids.

Earl Clark, 93, then joined the group at the base of Gondola One for a ride to the top followed by lunch at The 10th. They later drove up to Camp Hale, where remnants of the training ground still exist.

Anthony picked Clark up from his Denver home and drove him up to Vail in a borrowed Ferrari. The two laughed about the detours they took in the Ferrari as they rode the gondola.

Clark stopped skiing five years ago, when he was 88 years old. That was probably the last time he was on Vail Mountain, he said.

"At 93-1/2, to still be able to get on a gondola and come up and do what we're doing today is a great treat for me," Clark said.

Clark has skied almost his entire life. He joined the Army in November of 1941 because of the 10th Mountain Division, he said. It was a month before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, marking the beginning of the war for the United States.

He retired in 1983 and continued to ski, but it's too much for him now.

As the 10th Mountain troops have aged and passed away over recent years, it became obvious to Anthony that there was an urgency in documenting their stories. He pitched the idea to Warren Miller Entertainment and once Anthony completed his on-camera interviews with about a dozen veterans, that's when producers knew the magnitude of what they were filming.

"I think that's when everyone started realizing how important this message is," Anthony said. "And it's a timely one - one we needed to get sooner rather than later."

A roughly 10-minute segment appeared in the latest Warren Miller ski film, "Flow State," released last fall, and the response from audiences was overwhelming.

"Across the country there were standing ovations for that segment - across the country," Tjossem said. "And (Warren Miller Entertainment was) blown away and then they realized, 'Oh my gosh, we have something so precious.' They went back and totally re-edited it."

The documentary will be the centerpiece of the museum's 10th Mountain education series. Tjossem said it will only initially be available for private screenings for nonprofits and museum partners. After about six months, the museum will likely release the DVD.

"But we really want to protect it for now, because it's so unique," she said.

It's unique for Warren Miller Entertainment, too. The stories in its ski films are usually centered around adventure skiing. The films find stories that give producers an excuse to make skiing movies. This story, however, needs no excuse.

"I thought this one was long overdue," Anthony said. "The theme behind the documentary is to connect these guys with our youth in a fun and active way."

- By Lauren Glendenning, Vail Daily

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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