FRANCONIA, New Hampshire — The Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race, slated for March 9-10, 2007 at Cranmore Mountain Resort in North Conway, New Hampshire, will feature several teams of active duty US Army mountain-trained soldiers, and will be attended by a contingent of World War II veterans from the famed 10th Mountain Division. The link between Hannes Schneider, who popularized Alpine skiing in the 1920s and 1930s from his home in St. Anton, Austria, and military skiing dates from Schneider’s experience in World War I training Austrian recruits to ski, which was key to his development of a ski teaching system, and from his ties to his expatriate Austrian prot?В©g?В©s who joined the American mountain troops after leaving occupied Europe on the eve of World War II.
Schneider’s connection to the 10th Mountain Division is best represented by Hannes’ son, Herbert, who joined the unit in 1942, several years after the Schneider family relocated from St. Anton to North Conway in 1939. Herbert Schneider will preside over the Meister Cup event this year, joining a number of other 10th veterans expected to attend. At least two, John G. McDonald of North Conway and Nelson Bennett of Yakima, WA, may still click into their bindings and run the course, though two eighty-something 10th ski racers, Dick Calvert of Wolfeboro and Fran Lathrop of New Hampton, are sending regrets because they expect to be in Big Sky, Montana, defending their records in the Alpine Masters National Championships.
For the third year in a row, the Army Mountain Warfare School of Jericho, Vermont will send a race team. This National Guard school associated with the Vermont National Guard provides specialized mountain-specific training to US Army units, filling a role that detachments of the 10th Mountain Division developed in their World War II years. A race team from the 10th Mountain Division of Fort Drum, New York is also anticipated, though elements of the division are currently in Afghanistan. Both the Vermont National Guard and the 10th have suffered casualties in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the event’s 2007 Program includes a Roll of Honor of US mountain soldiers from those units who have died in the conflict.
Veterans of the 10th Mountain Division returning from World War II played a key role in the rise of the ski industry, and accelerated a shift of the center of gravity of skiing from east to west. Before the war, New England had been the hotbed of skiing development, but after thousands of the best skiers in the country were assembled at Camp Hale, Colorado for training as mountain troops during the war, many of those soldiers who were exposed to the snow conditions of the Rockies returned there and had a hand in the birth of ski resorts like A-Basin, Aspen and Vail.
While the impact of 10th veterans was perhaps most dramatic in the west, their experience was felt in all parts of the country. In the immediate vicinity of Mt Cranmore, then called the Eastern Slope Region, 10th skiers became leaders in skiing and business generally. Bob Morrell and his family created Storyland, the family attraction in Glen; Brad Boynton was a key part of a group that created Jackson Ski Touring Foundation; Thad Thorne became longtime general manager at Attitash; and Herbert Schneider owned and operated Mt. Cranmore for many years.
The military aspect of the Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race is only a part of the varied event. Many participants wear vintage ski outfits, and awards will be presented to those judged most remarkable. An ice-carving competition pits some of the best culinary artists of the area, and a silent auction offers good buys on ski equipment, signed memorabilia, and dining and lodging certificates.
Located in Franconia Notch NH next to the Cannon Mountain Tramway, the New England Ski Museum is a non-profit, member-supported museum dedicated to collecting, preserving and exhibiting aspects of ski history. The Museum is open from 10 AM to 5 PM seven days a week from Memorial Day through the end of March. Admission is free. For more information call 800-639-4181 or visit www.skimuseum.org.