—Presentation to highlight Division’s Teton roots—

Jackson, WY (July 25) – Many Teton County residents are familiar with the East Gros Ventre Butte subdivision known as Riva Ridge. 

Fewer know that its name commemorates Jackson resident Phil Lucas, who fought with the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division in a World War II offensive that helped end the war in Europe—and that, post-war, gave birth to America’s ca. $1T outdoor recreation economy. 

The 10th Mountain Division’s incredible tale, as well as its Teton connections, will be on display August 10 when Christian Beckwith, host of the popular podcast Ninety-Pound Rucksack, presents “Unprecedented: The Story of the 10th Mountain Division and the Dawn of Outdoor Recreation in America,” at the American Alpine Club’s Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch in Grand Teton National Park.

The 10th was an Army unit of World War II climbers and skiers who trained for more than three years to fight the Axis powers in extreme cold and mountainous terrain. Its 1945 insertion into the war helped end Germany’s occupation of Italy.  

Lucas, who was drafted into the Army in 1942 and transferred to the mule-dependent mountain unit because of his ranching experience, participated in the February 1945 assault on Italy’s Riva Ridge, an action that helped break Hitler’s Gothic Line. He was hardly the only Teton County resident to join the Division.

Paul Petzoldt, the founder of the Petzoldt-Exum School of Mountaineering; Martin Murie, son of the famed conservationists Mardy and Olaus Murie; and brothers Grant and Tiny Hagen also joined the Division. 

Post-war, they helped lure a wave of their fellow soldiers to Teton County, with implications that continue to this day. 

Veterans of the 10th started the Jenny Lake Rangers, founded NOLS, Nike, and the Teton Science School, launched the fields of avalanche science and wilderness rescue, shaped the American conservation movement, and developed more than 60 ski areas across the country, including Aspen, Vail and Snow King Mountain.

The Grand Teton’s Stettner Couloir is named (albeit mistakenly) for Teton climbers and 10th Mountain Division veterans Joe and Paul Stettner. Ninety-Pound Rucksack’s protagonist, John McCown, learned to climb in the Tetons, joined the Division, became a mountaineering instructor and led his C Company up Riva Ridge to take its objective without a casualty.  

“I’ve long been fascinated by the history of Teton climbing,” said Beckwith, “and I’d heard of the 10th, but the deeper I dug into the unit’s history, the more I learned about its connection to the Tetons.”

Beckwith, who is now serving as an advisor to the 10th Mountain Division, was inducted into the Division’s Warrior Hall of Fame in June for services rendered to the unit.

“The 10th is one of the most important units in US military history,” said Beckwith. “Not only has its service been critical to US security; its contributions to outdoor recreation have shaped a cornerstone of both American and Teton culture.”

“I look forward to sharing the unit’s story with our community.”

The presentation, which begins at 7 p.m., is free and open to the public. Guest space is limited to 100 people. To reserve your space, email gtcr@americanalpineclub.org or call the office at 307-733-7271.