President Joe Biden visited Colorado this week to designate Camp Hale a national monument. In doing so, Camp Hale is now protected from development. The event took place on Wednesday, September 12, 2022.
Camp Hale is the first national monument designated by the Biden administration and was renamed “the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument” on Wednesday.
“This action will honor our nation’s veterans, Indigenous people, and their legacy by protecting this Colorado landscape, while supporting jobs and America’s outdoor recreation economy,” the White House said in a fact sheet. “The president is building on a series of steps the administration has taken to protect some of America’s most cherished lands and waters.”
Camp Hale is located between Red Cliff and Leadville – about a 40-minute drive from western Summit County – and has long been an area of environmental and historical significance.
Established in 1942, Camp Hale was a center for mountain and winter warfare training during World War II. It comprised more than 1,000 buildings and served as the base of operations for the then newly-formed 10th Mountain Division’s training.
World War II was fought in areas many U.S. soldiers were unfamiliar with, such as Europe’s varied and often harsh mountain terrain. Needing to fight the Axis powers on their own terrain, the United States began to develop and train new methods for mountain warfare. In partnership with the National Ski Patrol, the U.S. Army began construction of Camp Hale in April of 1942.
During the following months, a small town was built in the Pando Valley north of Leadville with ski hills and mountain training courses. At 9,200 feet elevation, Camp Hale provided easy access to the 12,000+ foot mountains and Eagle River surrounding it. Highway 24 and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad facilitated transportation to and from Camp Hale, which eventually grew to accommodate 15,000 soldiers with experience skiing in harsh conditions.
The skills Camp Hale trained for during World War II were new and unique among international militaries. The 10th Mountain Division employed those skills well, climbing dangerous ridges in Italy’s Northern Apennines to surprise Nazi troops and remove them from artillery positions: This was crucial in the Allied Forces being able to advance into northern Italy.
Camp Hale and the Pando Valley played an important role in training the soldiers who helped beat fascism in the Italian Alps during the second world war. Ultimately, Camp Hale was pivotal in the Allied victory over the Axis Powers, but its impact throughout history continued well beyond the war’s end in 1945.
Camp Hale helped launch Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy, and its importance to the ski industry cannot be overstated. After the war ended, many Camp Hale veterans returned to Colorado to pursue their newly discovered passion for winter recreation.
Many 10th Mountain Division veterans became outdoor educators, ski instructors and patrollers, and pioneers of outdoor winter sports. In fact, Camp Hale veterans are to thank for the creation of over 60 U.S. ski resorts – including Vail Ski Resort founder Peter Seibert. Additionally, the Camp’s surplus of skis helped make skiing more accessible after World War II.
Beyond its major historical impact on both World War II and the U.S. ski industry, the national monument designation will protect and preserve the surrounding natural resources and wildlife it encompasses. This area includes part of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) in the Tenmile Range. This section of the CDT, which connects Mexico to Canada, serves as a crucial habitat and connective passage for wildlife, in addition to providing a recreational path for hikers exploring the scenic vistas from Leadville to Breckenridge.
Potential changes or development to the Camp Hale area pose numerous risks to visitors, locals, and wildlife. Harmful elements lay buried deep in the Valley’s soil that, if exposed, could threaten wildlife in the area and potentially contaminate additional water sources. Changes to the site could also create a flood risk for the Valley.
By designating Camp Hale as a national monument, more funding will become available for the restoration of the area and building facilities to manage preservation on an ongoing basis. It will also protect the historical area from residential and commercial real estate development, oil, gas, and mineral extraction and improve the quality of the watershed. All in addition, of course, to preserving a chief historical landmark.
The Biden administration designated the Camp Hale monument using the Antiques Act, which was created to establish and expand U.S. national monuments of environmental, historical, and cultural significance. The Antiques Act has been used over 150 times in U.S. history.
As Summit County locals and real estate experts, all of us at Real Estate of the Summit are proud to see this critical area and historical landmark federally preserved. Camp Hale and the 10th Mountain Division are a vital part of our nation’s history and central to Summit County’s story. Real Estate of the Summit supports any initiative that protects and preserves this landscape for future generations to learn about and enjoy. Contact us today to learn more about Camp Hale!
“Notable veterans of Camp Hale include Senator Bob Dole, Vail Ski Resort founder Peter Seibert, National Outdoor Leadership School and the Wilderness Education Foundation founder Paul Petzoldt, Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club David Brower, legendary mountaineer Fred Beckey, National Ski Patrol founder Charles Minot Dole, at least two Olympic athletes, and many more.” – Outside Magazine