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10th Mountain remnants found

Jeremy Heiman

A land preservation official discovered the remnants of a U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division camp on a parcel of land in Ashcroft last summer.

Stone platforms for tents were discovered in the middle of the land used by Ashcroft Ski Touring. The platforms are on the so-called Ryan parcel, a 35-acre piece of land owned by Aspen Valley Land Trust and Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program.

The discovery was made last summer by Reid Haughey, executive director of the land trust, as he looked for a survey marker at the northwest corner of the parcel.

What Haughey found was a series of stone foundations, some filled in with soil, each about 12 feet square. The foundations are indistinct, Haughey said, and, though about six were noted, it’s difficult to say exactly how many exist. They are among aspen trees that have grown around and through them, Haughey said, but they were no doubt on the edge of a meadow 50 years ago.

It’s easy to see why the foundations weren’t noticed before.

“They were back in the trees and buried in snow, and I don’t think anyone knew they were there,” Haughey said.

An outdoor fireplace, used in recent years for barbecues by area residents, is probably also connected to the World War II camp. It was likely a fireplace, all that remains of a cabin that is in a photograph of the camp, Haughey said.

Dale Will, director of the county’s Open Space program, said he’s been in touch with 10th Mountain Division commander Ralph Lafferty. Lafferty told him the unit stationed at Ashcroft was the first 10th Mountain unit in Colorado during World War II. Lafferty brought 25 skiers, 25 mule skinners and 10 infantrymen to Ashcroft in 1941, prior to the construction of Camp Hale, the division’s main training camp, near Tennessee Pass.

The unit spent the first summer at Ashcroft training to build bridges under combat conditions, Will said. The Ashcroft camp was abandoned when Camp Hale was occupied, but a detachment later returned to train for severe winter maneuvers.

Will said the land was probably owned by ski pioneer Ted Ryan at the time of its use by the military. Ryan and others explored the possibility of developing a ski area at Ashcroft before Aspen Mountain opened.

Lafferty is preparing a history of the 10th Mountain Division’s activities at Ashcroft, at Will’s request. He could not be reached for this story.

The accompanying photograph was supplied by Fritz Kramer, another veteran who trained at Ashcroft.

The parcel, surrounded by National Forest land, was put up for sale by Ted Ryan’s estate in 1998. It was purchased by Elk Mountain Lodge owner David Middleton, who hoped to prevent its development.

The Aspen Valley Land Trust, along with Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails program and an alliance of other groups and individuals, purchased the land last year and negotiated a trade for another parcel to be created out of U.S. Forest Service land just north of the ski area, on Devaney Creek.

As with other land trades involving the federal government this one has proved to be neither quick nor easy. Difficulties remain in finding another suitable parcel to add to the deal and in establishing the value of the lands.

The discovery of the historic remnants at Ashcroft add urgency to the effort to preserve the parcel from private development.

“This is just another reason why we think this land exchange is so important,” Haughey said.”


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