Colorado Road Trip 2019 | On the Road to Leadville - Camp Hale and Mount Cooper

Tennessee Pass and the 10th Mountain Division

While driving south along route 24 from Vail to Leadville, we were quite surprised when we came upon Camp Hale Historical Area. We knew nothing about it.  

It was closed to the public where we were. When we pulled off the road we were able to park next to the gate and could see miles of dirt roads and building foundations.  The sign at the gate referred to asbestos, and we figured that obeying the closure was the healthy thing to do. (Of course we would have obeyed the signs anyway.) Nevertheless, I read later that there are permitted areas for designated overnight camping.

Camp Hale was a U.S. Army training center for the 10th Mountain Division constructed in 1942. It was deactivated just three years later. 

Here, at over 9,000 feet of elevation, soldiers were trained in cold weather tactics and survival, as well as nordic and alpine skiing.  There were as many as 15,000 soldiers housed here. 

The Alpine skiing was done at Mount Cooper (not to be confused with a new Colorado ski resort called Copper Mountain).  Cooper is one of the oldest ski areas in the nation and continues to operate four lifts and 41 trails over 400 acres. By Colorado standards, it is a small ski area. Back in 1942 there were on-site barracks for instructors who were brought in from ski areas such as Sun Valley. There was one T-bar, and the first trails were cut by the soldiers.

A piece of Mount Cooper as seen from the parking lot.

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