Event marks 77th anniversary of US Army ski race on Mt Mangart

Bovec – A special ceremony on Friday marked 77 years since the 10th Mountain Division of the US Army held a ski race on the slopes of Mt Mangart. The event was followed in the evening by the Slovenian premiere of American filmmaker Chris Anthony’s documentary dedicated to the post-WWII race.

The Slovenian premiere of Mission Mt. Mangart was held in the nearby town of Bovec in the north-west of the country, but the very first to see it in Slovenia were pupils of the Bovec primary school at a matinee screening.

A professional skier, Anthony turned the almost-forgotten story about the race into a film that premiered in the US last November. He told the story with the help of retired Slovenian Brigadier General Janez Kavar.

So far, the film has been screened around 30 times, mainly in the US, Anthony said. He also had the opportunity to show it to the current members of the 10th Mountain Division.

The film is now also subtitled in Italian and Slovenian, and the translation costs were shared by the Bovec municipality and the US Embassy in Ljubljana.

Anthony is donating the proceeds of the project to his own foundation dedicated to the education of American children. Most of the funding for the film, which cost EUR 130,000, were raised through donations.

Mission Mt. Mangart was also entered into the Cannes World Film Festival programme, where it won the Best Historical Film of the Month award for April 2021.

According to Anthony, he is now done with festival and competition entries. The film is not available online for now, but might be in the future. In Slovenia, it will be screened at the Kinodvor cinema in Ljubljana on Monday and in the town of Pivka on Wednesday.

The film was originally scheduled for a world premiere in Bovec in June 2020, but the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Today’s ceremony at the Mangart Saddle was attended by former Defence Minister Matej Tonin, US Ambassador to Slovenia Jamie Harpootlian and Bovec Mayor Valter Mlekuž.

The mayor noted that the municipality played a major role in the annual commemoration of the race. Harpootlian expressed her enthusiasm for the Soča Valley, stressing that the event further strengthened the friendship between Slovenia and the US.

On 3 June 1945, following the surrender of Nazi Germany, the 10th Mountain Division organised a ski race on the slopes of Mt Mangart near the Slovenia-Italy border. The division, which had ultimately contributed to Germany’s surrender to the Allies in Italy on 2 May 1945, included men from different countries who had migrated to the US and joined what is considered the US’s first ski troop.

A total of 76 men participated in the race that attracted over 500 spectators and was seen as one of the signs of the hard-won freedom, reads a post shared on elanskis.com. The veterans of the 10th Mountain Division, who were experienced skiers, later contributed to the development of ski resorts and ski schools in the US, including by establishing Vail and Aspen, according to the online portal Snow Brains.