Life at Camp Hale
Training at Camp Hale was rigorous, but the 14,000 soldiers stationed there also found time for fun. Morale was high since most of the ski troops had volunteered to join the unit. While the soldiers came from vastly different backgrounds, most shared a love of the outdoors and were ready for adventure.
One of the highlights of camp life was the Hale and Hearty, a variety show with skits, original songs, and dancing. The post also held dances and festivals, including a Harvest Carnival where a Camp Hale Harvest Queen was crowned.
The camp was also lucky enough to host a number of visiting celebrities, including Jane Wyman, a well-known actress and singer of the time. On one occasion, popular radio personality Lowell Thomas broadcasted from the camp, while famed boxer Joe Louis put on a 3-round exhibition. All these events were captured with comic relief by the lively Ski-Zette, the weekly Camp Hale newspaper.
Like other large Army posts, the camp featured several movie theaters where first-run movies played and social clubs for enlisted men and officers. By 1943, women joined Camp Hale as part of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps and in various civilian jobs on the post. Married soldiers brought their wives, who also worked at Camp Hale.
On weekends, the men found themselves at nearby ski areas, visiting local towns, or even taking the train to Denver. Leadville, a nearby mountain town, was at times deemed too rowdy for the ski troops and occasionally declared off limits by the Army.
One negative aspect of camp life was the Pando Hack, a relentless cough that resulted from all the soot from coal furnaces and railroad cars and affected most of the camp’s inhabitants. For some, it was severe enough to force a transfer out of the unit.
While it was grueling training, vets of the 10th mountain training say they also appreciated the beauty of the Pando Valley. Said one vet of skiing in the nearby mountains: “There were some days, it was so beautiful, so inviting, and we’d just take off.”