Other than foundations, concrete pads, and a bronze plaque at a pullout off US Highway 24 (a.k.a. The 10th Mountain Division Memorial Highway), little remains of Camp Hale, the military base between Red Cliff and Leadville where elite soldiers of the 10th prepared for World War II. In Vail, (founded by a 10th veteran), there’s a bronze statue of a ski trooper at the foot of Bridge Street, and a pair of ski runs (Avanti and Riva Ridge) are named for battles the 10th fought in the Italian Alps.
But if you want to actually ski where 10th Mountain soldiers first learned to carve turns, you need to visit Ski Cooper, a historic ski hill off Highway 24 just south of Camp Hale itself. This season, the mom-and-pop resort celebrates 75 years since its rope-tow first started hauling soldiers to its summit in 1942. Open to the public since the war ended, Ski Cooper boasts 39 trails, 400 acres of terrain, four chairlifts—for $54 a day ($30 on Thursdays); for a $369 premium, you can book the resort’s snowcat to Chicago Ridge and have a powder field the size of the Back Bowls all to yourself.
This season, Cooper debuts a new mountaintop yurt, where guests can snack and sip while they soak in the same views as the storied army unit in honor of the ski hill’s diamond anniversary. Moonlight dinners are also on the anniversary menu, with diners being whisked away by snowcat to the mountaintop bistro for a multicourse feast sourced from local farms and wineries in Buena Vista and Salida the first Saturday of every month. The party officially kicks off New Year’s Eve, though, when Ski Cooper’s slopes will host a torchlight parade, with balloons and cake to commemorate its first tracks 75 years before. If you really want to relive history, plan on taking a few laps in honor of Ski Cooper’s 10th Mountain Day, an annual celebration where 10th Mountain Division veterans partake in a memorial ceremony before tearing down their old stomping grounds.
Ski Cooper may have been eclipsed by its neighbor on the other side of Battle Mountain, but that’s exactly what makes this place so special.
“We’re not like the mega resorts,” its website touts. “We don’t do crowds. We don’t do lift lines. We don’t do pretension.... We don’t do movie-star prices. We don’t do hard, man-made snow.”
But it does make history.
75th Season Special Events
Opening Day: Dec 9
Torchlight parade, music, balloons, and cake: Sun, Dec 31
Saturday Mountaintop Moonlight Yurt Dinners: Jan 6, Feb 3, March 3, April 7
10th Mountain Day Military Ski Down: Fri, March 2
232 County Road 29, Leadville, 719-486-2277, skicooper.com