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ABOUT

NINETY-POUND RUCKSACK

Hosted by veteran alpinist and climbing historian Christian Beckwith, Ninety-Pound Rucksack is a podcast about the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division and the dawn of America’s ca. $1T outdoor recreation industry. 

The 10th was an unprecedented unit of World War II climbers and skiers who trained for more than two years in the Colorado Rockies to fight the Axis powers in extreme cold and mountainous terrain. Not only did the Division’s insertion into the war catalyze Germany’s surrender; post-war, its veterans developed ski areas across America, started companies like NOLS and Nike and electrified the fields of conservation and wilderness education.  

Informed by an advisory board of the Division’s foremost experts, Ninety-Pound Rucksack examines the stories that made the unit famous as well as those history has forgotten. Equal parts real-time research, intimate conversation and revelatory journalism, the podcast illuminates the transformative power of the mountains to forge a collective identity among the mountain troops—and to ignite a passion for the outdoors that reshaped American society in the process.

CHRISTIAN BECKWITH: HOST

The founder and board chair of The Teton Climbers’ Coalition, Christian Beckwith has spent more than thirty years immersed in the world of alpinism. He started his first climbing organization, The Wayward Mountaineers, and The Mountain Yodel, a climbing ‘zine, soon after moving to Jackson, Wyoming, in 1993. In 1996, he became the youngest person to edit the world’s premier mountaineering journal, The American Alpine Journal. In 2002 he co-founded Alpinist Magazine, an archival-quality climbing quarterly that Reinhold Messner called “the greatest climbing magazine in the world today.” More recently, he started the surfing, skiing and climbing extravaganza, The Alpinist Film Festival; coordinated the Teton Boulder Project, which developed a Jackson Hole bouldering park to honor Teton pioneers; launched Outerlocal, a social media website for adventure athletes; developed the Town Pump bouldering series; and founded SHIFT, a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of nature as a social determinant of health; and launched and directed AlpinFilm. He has made expeditions to Kyrgyzstan, Alaska, Peru and Tibet, skied the Grand Teton half a dozen times, and established numerous first ascents and descents around the world. In 2023, he was inducted into the 10th Mountain Division’s Warrior Hall of Fame for services rendered to the Division. He lives in Jackson, Wyoming, with his wife and daughter.

Advisory Board

Dr. Chris Juergens

Lance R. Blyth is the Command Historian of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and an Adjunct Professor of History at the United States Air Force Academy. A native of the Rocky Mountain West, he served as a Marine infantry officer from 1988 to 1993 before attending graduate school, earning his PhD from Northern Arizona University in 2005. Trained as a borderlands scholar, his work, Chiricahua and Janos: Communities of Violence in the Southwestern Borderlands, 1680-1880 (University of Nebraska Press, 2012) won the Western History Association’s prize for the best non-fiction book on Southwestern America. As a backcountry skier with a history problem, Blyth is pursuing a study of mountain warfare through an examination of the US 10th Mountain Division of World War II and of US efforts towards mountain warfare capabilities after the war to the present day. He lives with his wife in Colorado Springs, Colorado, though they spend as much time as possible near and above treeline in the Rockies, often in the 10th Mountain’s old training grounds.

Dr. Chris Juergens

McKay Jenkins has been writing and teaching about the environment and social justice for 30 years. He  holds degrees from Amherst, Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and Princeton, where he received a PhD in English. A former staff writer for the Atlanta Constitution, he has also written for Outside, Orion, The New Republic, and many other publications. Jenkins is currently the Cornelius Tilghman Professor of English,  Journalism and Environmental Humanities at the University of Delaware, where he has won the University’s Excellence in Teaching Award and both the Excellence in Teaching Award and the Outstanding Scholarship Award from the College of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of, among many other books, The Last Ridge: The Epic Story of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division and the Assault on Hitler’s Europe (Random House, 2003), which tells the story of America’s most famous mountain soldiers. He lives in Baltimore with his family.

Dr. Chris Juergens

Dr. Chris Juergens is the Anschutz Curator of Military History at History Colorado and the 10th Mountain Division Resource Center. He earned his PhD from Florida State University with a dissertation on Hessian contract troops in the American War of Independence. Growing up in southwestern Germany and upstate NY, he has always been interested in mountain warfare and, in addition to his work on the 10th Mountain Division, is working on a project about a Jäger Division in Army Group South.

Dr. Chris Juergens

Jeff Leich was executive director of the New England Ski Museum from 1997 through 2022. Responsible for the overall operations of the member-supported non-profit organization, during his tenure the museum grew from one location to three buildings encompassing two museum branches and one archive and collections center. He was the curator of the museum’s annually changing exhibits, and continues to act as editor of its quarterly Journal of the New England Ski Museum. Prior to his work with the museum, Leich held a variety of jobs in the ski and outdoor recreation businesses including ski shops manager, state park ranger, ski patroller and ski patrol director. He and his wife live in North Conway, New Hampshire and have two grown children.

David Little

David Little is the historian for the Tenth Mountain Division Foundation, and has served on their Board of Directors for more than 25 years. He currently serves as the chair for their Collection and Public Works team, assisting museums and other preservation activities across the country and around the world. David has been a student of 10th Mountain history for 40 years, primarily focused on artifacts and their use. David was educated at the University of Northern Colorado, Northern Illinois University and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He lives in Colorado with his wife and new puppy, “Riva.”

David Little

Sepp Scanlin is a military historian and museum professional. He served as the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum’s Museum Director from October 2016 until July 2022, overseeing the renovation of the exhibits in a new off-post museum facility. He has led numerous military groups on tours of the 10th Mountain Division battlefields in Italy and assisted in several 10th Mountain Division-focused civilian museum exhibits and educational programs. Previously, he served 21 years in the U.S. Army, providing intelligence support to Armor, Infantry, Aviation and Special Forces before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. As a 10th Mountain Division veteran, he served in the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment and the 110th Military Intelligence Battalion at Ft. Drum, including deployments to both Afghanistan and Iraq—a unique combination of experience and education that enables him to bring the 10th’s history to life. A native of Virginia, he has a BA in International Relations from James Madison University, a MA in National Security Strategy from the Naval War College, and a Masters in Museum Studies with a specialty certification in Digital Curation from Johns Hopkins University. He continues working to preserve and educate students on a wide variety of military history topics and is working on several independent historical research projects. He is currently the Museum Director for the U.S. Army Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis, Virginia, and serves on the board of the 10th Mountain Division Foundation and the Williamsburg Battlefield Association. He lives in Williamsburg, Virginia with his wife, Amy.

David Little

Keli Schmid is the archivist and librarian who oversees the 10th Mountain Division Resource Center at Denver Public Library, which is one of the largest military archives of its kind in the United States. Keli attended graduate school entirely online, through San Jose State University, graduating in 2012 with a Masters in Library and Information Science. While in school, she gained practical experience by volunteering at a number of libraries, including Denver Public Library. She knew her passion for preserving the past was leading her towards work in an archive, and she found her dream job at the 10th Mountain Division Resource Center in 2015.

David Little

Doug Schmidt is the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division‘s historian and Curator at the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Museum. He joined the U.S. Army in 1997 as a field artillery forward observer. After serving one year on the Korean DMZ, Doug followed in his great-grandfather’s footsteps taking an assignment with the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) at Fort Drum, NY.  While assigned to the 10th Doug deployed on peacekeeping missions to Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, as well as a deployment to northern Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Following his time in the Army, Doug completed an Associates of Arts degree and a Bachelors of Arts degree focusing in history and military history respectively.  He then returned to Fort Drum as a civilian contractor working to train soldiers through the use of multiple different simulators. While doing this he completed a Masters degree in Military History – War Since 1945 focusing on the 10th Mountain Division and light infantry. Doug has researched and written several unit histories for 10th Mountain Division units, as well as consulted on several other projects and texts focusing on the 10th Mountain Division past and present. Climb To Glory!

SPONSORS

Thank you to CiloGear and 10th Mountain Whiskey for sponsoring my show.  

CiloGear makes the lightest, most durable, best-fitting alpine backpacks that money can buy.  Check them out at cilogear.com.

10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Co. is a philanthropic, craft distillery creating small batch, award-winning bourbon, single malt whiskey, rye whiskey, vodka, and more.

To get 10% off your next order, go here: https://10thwhiskey.com/discount/Rucksack

partners

Ninety Pound Rucksack is also supported by our partners: the 10th Mountain Division Foundation, the Denver Public Library, the American Alpine Club and the 10th Mountain Division Descendants.

Tenth Mountain Division Foundation

The Tenth Mountain Division Foundation

The mission of the Tenth Mountain Division Foundation is to honor and perpetuate the legacy of the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division past, present, and future by doing good works that exemplify the ideals by which they lived. 

Denver Public Library

The Denver Public Library

The Denver Public Library’s 10th Mountain Division Resource Center is the official repository for all records and artifacts related to the World War II-era 10th Mountain Division.  

The American Alpine Club

THE AMERICAN ALPINE CLUB

The American Alpine Club has been supporting climbers and preserving climbing history for more than 120 years.

10th Mountain Division Descendants, Inc.

The 10th Mountain Division Descendants, Inc.

The 10th Mountain Division Descendants, Inc. exists to preserve and enhance the legacy of the WWII 10th Mountain Division and 10th Mountain Division (LI) for future generations.