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Coopers Claims to Fame: from Soldier Training Camp to Family Ski Getaway

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Cooper is one of the oldest ski resorts in the US, and boasts its origins with the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division who cut the first trails on Cooper Hill for training exercises. The 10th Mountain Division soldiers weren’t in the war long, but they really distinguished themselves during their engagement.

In 1942, the U.S. Army created the Tenth Mountain Division and selected Camp Hale & Cooper Hill (now Cooper), located at 11,700 feet, as the Division’s training site. The division was ordered to Italy in 1945 to spearhead the advance of the U.S. Fifth Army and served in a series of actions that played a vital role in the liberation of Italy.

The Germans did not believe anyone could get to them via Italy, so they were not prepared when the 10th Mountain Division climbed up the rocks in the night and broke the German line. The 10th Mountain Division soldiers were extremely well-prepared and trained for this, they even constructed a zipline to evacuate the wounded. By the time of the German Surrender in May, 1945, 992 ski troopers had been killed in action and 4,000 were wounded, the highest casualty rate of any U.S. division in the Mediterranean.

Following World War II, Cooper Hill opened to the public as Ski Cooper in 1945 as a three-day-per week ski area for the enjoyment of local residents.

Known simply as Cooper today, the resorts claim to fame is providing skiing the way it used to be: affordable and family-friendly with extras, like Chicago Ridge Snowcat Skiing and Chicago Ridge Scenic Sightseeing Tours. For the quintessential Colorado experience, guests can stay in nearby Leadville and enjoy the ambiance of an authentic Victorian mining town.