Camp Hale: Colorado’s new national monument

Colorado’s newest national monument is the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, covering nearly 54,000 acres in the White River National Forest north of Leadville. President Biden announced the new national monument on October 12, 2022. The purpose of this national monument is to:

Ski troopers with skis attached to their knapsacks. Photo courtesy of the Colorado Dept. of Education.
  1. highlight the history of the World War II training camp that was located in the area;
  2. preserve lands and objects of cultural importance to the Ute Tribes; and
  3. protect rare natural resources and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Several state agencies have put together resources related to the military history of the new monument. The Colorado Encyclopedia from History Colorado provides an overview of the history of Camp Hale. The camp was built in 1942 to serve as the training grounds for the Tenth Mountain Division during World War II. The location was chosen specifically for soldiers to train in harsh winter conditions to prepare them for military operations in the mountains of northern Italy. The Tenth Mountain Division learned to ski, snowshoe, and climb at the camp, and many members went on to develop ski resorts in Colorado after the war ended.

For a look at everyday life within Camp Hale, browse digitized copies of the Camp Hale Ski-Zette in the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. This internal camp paper was published weekly and reported news from the camp community, advertised community events, and provided logistical information for the camp’s 15,000 residents. Accounts of day-to-day life can also be found in soldiers’ diaries, like in the diary of Dan Kennerly, which was published in the Spring 2004 issue of Colorado Heritage magazine (available for checkout from the State Publications Library).

Women enjoying the snow at Camp Hale.
Photo Courtesy of the Colorado Snowsports Museum and Hall of Fame and the Davis Family.

While the men in camp were being trained as soldiers, 200 women worked in Camp Hale as telephone operators (known as the “Hello Girls” within the camp), administrators, drivers, and nurses. The stories of the women in the camp were largely forgotten until recently. “Bless ‘Em: The Forgotten WACs of Camp Hale” in the Historical Studies Journal published by the University of Colorado Denver provides a look into the lives of the women who worked in Camp Hale – including some scandalous dalliances with German soldiers being held at the camp.

For younger historians, check out the Colorado Department of Education’s resource The Women of Camp Hale & 10th Mountain Division Resource Set. This web page is part of CDE’s social studies curriculum support materials and contains photos of those working at Camp Hale .

After Camp Hale closed, it was taken over by the U.S. Forest Service and they began the long process of restoring the valley to its natural state. Receiving a national monument designation will further protect the area’s valuable cultural and natural resources. Will you be visiting Colorado’s newest national monument?

Miranda Doran-Myers
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