Trooper Traverse Colorado Ski Route Introduction & Index


[click here for route details]

During February of 1944, a small group of 10th Mountain Division soldiers made a winter crossing of the huge snow-covered mountains between Leadville and Aspen, Colorado. Their four day trip, on skis in the Rocky Mountains, was an audacious statement of skill, poise, rugged self-reliance.

While legends of the trooper traverse circulated for years, details of the route remained untold. In 2000, well known ski mountaineer and writer Louis Dawson began researching the route by contacting surviving veterans and sifting through archives. He found a wealth of material, but realized the only way to truly know the trooper traverse was to do it himself. Teaming up with photographers Brian Litz and Chris Clark, Dawson repeated the route in late winter of 2001, as well as guiding it in 2006.

Louis Dawson skis from Darling Pass during the 2001 Trooper Traverse.

Louis Dawson skis from Darling Pass during the 2001 Trooper Traverse.

Dawson’s ensuing work at documenting the Trooper Traverse (available here as well as blends original historic photos of the soldier’s trip with Brian Litz shots of his 2001 journey, for an unforgettable view of what Dawson calls “the perfect trip.”

What’s more, in his exposital work Dawson details the heroic combat of the 10th during W.W.II, and the immense influence the 10th Mountain Division had on the ski and outdoor industry in America when they returned from the war.

Overall route, Trooper Traverse, Colorado.

Overall route, Trooper Traverse, Colorado. Click to enlarge.

“From the start, it was obvious to me that one of the trooper’s main goals was to enjoy the mountains before they crossed the sea to harm’s way,” says Dawson. “Trooper Richard Rocker later wrote that it was one of the more ‘memorable occasions of the Camp Hale experience.'”

“Indeed,” says Lou, “our re-creation of the trip turned out to be one of the best times I’ve had in my career as a ski mountaineer. There is nothing like combining Colorado’s mountains, snow, skis, good companions and rich history — those are the ingredients for the perfect ski mountaineering trip.”

10th Mountain troopers crest the Continental Divide during their historic 1944 ski traverse from Leadville to Aspen, Colorado.

10th Mountain troopers crest the Continental Divide during their historic 1944 ski traverse from Leadville to Aspen, Colorado. Click to enlarge.

(Exact dates for original Trooper Traverse: February 21-24, 1944. The soldiers arrived in Aspen on the 24th, spent the night in town and were trucked back to Camp Hale during the afternoon of February 25th.)

[Feature Article]

[2006 Guided Trip with Trooper Descendant]

[Route Details]

[Roster of Original Trip Soldiers]

[Richard Rocker Account of Original Trip]

[Burdell Winter Eulogy]

[Original 1944 Ski-Zette newspaper article.]

[Trooper Traverse in One Day!]

Following copyrighted downloads are for media or personal use by permission only:

[download high-res print version of ski photo]

[download high-res print version of Lou mug, credit Joe McBride]

[download high-res print version of Ralph Ball photo, with caption, credit Ralph Ball Collection]

Lou's Recent Posts on

Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's personal website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners.

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