Snow Jobs
Many 10th Mountain vets just kept on skiing

Bookmark and Share
Easy to print version

Mountain Men

Given the conditions they faced first in training and then in battle, it wouldn't be surprising to find that most veterans of the 10th Mountain Division put their skis away when they returned stateside and never pulled them out again. But after the end of World War II, the U.S. skiing industry took off, fueled in part by the heroics of the 10th Mountain Division, and UNH alumni were among the 2,000 or so 10th Mountain soldiers who spent their careers in the skiing industry.

Nelson Bennett '40, who took his first "snow job" as a teenager, washing dishes and waiting tables at Peckett's-on-Sugar Hill in Franconia in return for slope time, ended up essentially spending his whole life on skis. After the war, he returned to the Sun Valley ski patrol and later became the general manager at White Pass ski resort in Washington state. He made three trips to the Olympics, all in a team management capacity, and over the nearly 70 years of his career, he has won just about every award there is, including being named to the U.S. Skiing Hall of Fame in 1986. Still a regular on the slopes at 96, he led the 50th anniversary ascent of Riva Ridge in 1995, fixing the ropes for the climb and ascending a total of three times.

Dick McCrudden '48 spent boyhood weekends learning the famed Arlberg technique of skiing from next-door neighbor Hannes Schneider, often described as the father of modern skiing. When McCrudden enlisted in the 10th Mountain Infantry, he was a student at Middlebury College. Later, after the war, he enrolled at UNH and joined the ski team, and after graduation began his professional career on the Aspen, Colo., ski patrol. A natural teacher, he ended up as administrative director for all the ski schools in Aspen, overseeing more than 600 instructors at Aspen, Buttermilk and Snowmass resorts.

Thad Thorne '51, who after the war worked as a surveyor, lumber mill owner, commercial fisherman and livestock farmer, helped run both the Cranmore and Wildcat Mountain ski areas before starting Attitash Mountain in Bartlett, N.H., with business partner Phil Robertson in 1965. He designed and put in the first four trails himself, installed the resort's earliest lifts, and rigged the state's first snow-grooming machine—a Cat tractor that pulled along an overturned car hood. Thorne sold the resort—now Attitash-Bear Peak, one of the top ski destinations in the East—in 2007, after overseeing some four decades' worth of growth and change that included the installation of New Hampshire's first snowmaking machines and North America's longest alpine slide in the mid-1980s.

Neither Frank Crowley '49 nor Richard Mansfield '49, '50G pursued a skiing career, but both men remain active skiers in their late 80s. Crowley, who spent many years in the Social Security administration, taught skiing to disabled children in Vermont until two years ago. Mansfield enjoyed a career as a research chemist in Philadelphia. He holds a season pass to Mount Sunapee, and takes great pleasure from his regular runs in the early morning.

Mansfield demurs when asked about his time in the 10th Mountain and his enduring relationship with New Hampshire's White Mountains—"I wasn't anybody," he says—but the long white skis mounted on his brown, clapboard garage make the boast that he himself will not. Crossed like the pair of sabers on the blue and red 10th Mountain insignia, they are Mansfield's Army-issue skis, age-worn and battered but unmistakable. He is 10th Mountain. He will always be 10th Mountain.

blog comments powered by Disqus