As we reflect on our freedoms this Fourth of July holiday weekend, let us remember the history of the 10th Mountain Division. There are several reminders and sources of this winter warfare unit that trained south of Vail at Camp Hale and fought in key battles during World War II such as the Battle of Riva Ridge, Mount Belvedere and Lake Garda.
Some of these reminders include a statue of the 10th Mountain Division next to the covered bridge on Bridge Street, one of the most photographed areas in the city; Riva Ridge, the longest run on Vail Mountain; and the Colorado Snow Sports Museum exhibit featuring artifacts, gear and stories about the history of winter warriors.
These brave soldiers returned to the USA and transformed the modern ski industry into what we know today. Many ski resorts like Vail were created because of soldiers like Pete Seibert and Bob Parker who were members of the 10th Mountain Division.
“We are learning that there are so many stories associated with the history of the 10th Mountain Division. Many of them are just coming to the surface, such as the Battle of Torbole and Riva Del Garda, the women who played a role in their success, and the period when the 10th Mountain Division ended up on the Yugoslav border to push Tito’s army back.” said Vail native and Colorado Snow Sports Hall of Famer Chris Anthony.
Anthony is the screenwriter, director, editor, narrator and producer of the documentary film “Mission Mangart”, which sheds light on the events from 1939 to June 3, 1945, when a ski race near the border of the former Yugoslavia was hosted and organized by the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division.
“After the surrender of Germany in Europe, Japan was still fighting in the Pacific, where on the 10thth The Mountain Division was originally slated for deployment, but instead of being sent to the Yugoslav border, it was sent east,” Anthony said.
Inspired by the retired brigadier of the Slovenian Mountain Guard, Janez Kavar, Anthony worked closely with the Slovenians in recreating the race on Mangart in the original environment and equipment for 73 years almost to the day of the actual event.
After seven years in production, Anthony debuted the film on November 11, Veterans Day, with the Colorado Symphony at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver.
The Embassy of the United States of America in Slovenia invited Anthony to return to Slovenia to celebrate the 77th anniversary of the Mangart race and screen his film at numerous stops across the country. The Embassy of the United States of America, in cooperation with NATO, the Ministry of Defense of Slovenia, the Municipality of Bovec and the Slovenian Mountain Troops, created a stunning 10-day tour of the country.
The start of the event was on June 3rd, the anniversary of the race, and Anthony traveled to Bovec, the town closest to the foot of Mangart, and met with Bovec mayor Valter Mlekuž, US Ambassador to Slovenia Jamie L. Harpootlian, members of the National Assembly and other dignitaries on the Mangart saddle at the ceremony for the 77th anniversary of the ski race and the special bond between the two countries.
In Ambassador Harpootlian’s speech, she emphasizes the love of skiing and how this race on June 3, 1945 connects the two countries:
“This ski race is a symbol of the only good thing that can come from war – its peaceful conclusion. After months of terrible fighting, these men were able to share the joys of peace with the community of Bovec in Slovenia. This special feeling has connected us for the past 77 years.”
“The joy of sports has always been a healthy distraction from the evils of the world. Let us remember and be grateful to all those who have sacrificed for our freedoms as we celebrate peace today.”
In addition to being part of the ceremony at the base of Mangart, Anthony visited high schools and universities and made other public appearances and screenings of the film “Mission Mangart”.
The Embassy of Slovenia in Washington, DC invites Anthony to come and stay at the embassy and show the film to invited guests on September 1st after being invited back to Fort Drum to share the film again with current soldiers on the 10th.th of the mountain division on Aug. 30.
“Mission Mt. Mangart” received the support of two- and four-star generals and the Slovenian ambassador to the U.S. “Mission Mt. Mangart” also received the award for the best historical documentary at the Cannes World Film Festival in April 2021 and was again nominated for the joint award for the best historical documentary for 2021 and 2022 at the Cannes World Film Festival. It also won awards for original music produced by Carlo Nicolau and Chris Anthony.