A life shaped by skiing, war
August 7, 2006
As Nazi shells exploded around him at the end of World War II, longtime Aspenite Harry Poschman thought of skiing.The 10th Mountain Division veteran had two goals, one immediate, the other long term. The first was to keep the men under him and himself alive as a desperate Germany pounded the U.S. ski troopers’ positions in the Apennine Mountains of northern Italy.The other goal was to dedicate his life to skiing. Poschman, who died Saturday in Grand Junction at the age of 93, accomplished both.”His whole thing was, ‘I’m going to survive this war so I can ski,'” said his son, Greg, an Aspen filmmaker. “I think he was just grateful that he managed to keep those guys alive. Nobody in his squad was killed.”
After the war, which Greg said “completely shaped” his father’s life, those men and women “didn’t want anything to do with the real world. They wanted to ski,” he said.Harry “was somebody who did not appreciate authority,” his son said. “He was his own man” who was dedicated to enjoying life after experiencing so much death and destruction in the war.And so Harry joined the first generation of skiers to come to Aspen. Commuting between here and Alta, Utah, where he was a ski patroller, Poschman helped build Aspen Mountain’s first chairlift.”He was up there turning wrenches and hauling cable,” Greg said.
Even at 93, Poschman would “cackle with glee” when recalling the thrill of skiing powder on military-issue planks that were 7.5 feet long.”They were huge and they were thick, probably because [the military] was worried about them breaking,” Greg said. “They were a pain to ski on.”So Harry shaved the skis down to make them thinner and more flexible in deep snow. He also built and operated the Edelweiss Lodge, was a homebuilder and a real estate agent, and a ski instructor in the Friedl Pfeifer ski school, Aspen Mountain’s first. He taught many Aspenites the joy of making deep-powder turns.Harry Poschman was born in 1913 in Beaver Falls, Pa. His first skiing experience came on homemade planks that he used to explore a forest near his home. During the Depression, the 18-year-old Harry moved to San Diego and became a founding member of the city’s ski club. The group made frequent ski trips to the Sierras.
After Pearl Harbor, Harry enlisted and became a ski instructor in the U.S. Army’s Mountain Training Group at Camp Hale near Leadville. As a sergeant in the 10th Mountain Division, he led a machine-gun squad through pitched battles on Italy’s Mount Belvedere and pursued German forces across the Po River.The experience also gave Harry a love for all things Italian. After arriving in Aspen, he became a one-man chamber of commerce in the 1950s and enthusiastically touted the town’s charms to ski clubs around the country.Harry is survived by his daughter, Christie Interlante, of Aspen; his sons and their wives, Hap and Patti Poschman, of Palisade, and Greg and Maureen Poschman, of Aspen; and granddaughters Isabella and Willow Poschman, of Aspen.
Greg is completing “A Skier’s War,” the memoir his father was working on, of his wartime experience, when he died. The book, with many original photos, will be published this fall. A memorial service is also planned this fall.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.