Last weekend I returned to Mount Cranmore for the annual Meister Cup. This event celebrates skiing in the Mount Washington Valley, the arrival in 1939 of the Schneider family and honors the 10th Mountain Division.  

Each year, current members of this famed U.S. Army Division travel from Camp Drum in New York to compete in the race and represent their unit. Each year, a few members of the 10th who were in the original division during World War II are on hand as well, although this number has been shrinking as most are in their nineties with a few in their late eighties. 

Dave Irons, Ski Columnist

A week before this year’s event I had just finished reading a new book, “The Winter Army” by Maurice Isserman. The book, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, tells the story of the 10th Mountain Division, how they came to be, their formation, their training and the heroic campaign near the end of World War II in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. It would take a lot more space than I have here to review this entire book, but there are a number of reasons to write about it, especially in view of the Cranmore event.  

One of the skiers I always looked forward to seeing was Herbert Schneider, up until his death a few years ago. Schneider arrived with his father Hannes Schneider, the famed Ski Meister, on that train in North Conway in 1939. Herbert was 19 when the family came to this country and was soon in the U.S. Army, assigned as a ski instructor to the newly formed 10th Mountain Division. After the war he returned to the Mount Washington Valley and eventually became the owner of Mount Cranmore. 

I first met Herbert Schneider in the late ’70s when I called on him while selling radio advertising. He was one of those people who turns the conversation to the other person and naturally our conversation turned to skiing. When he learned that we had a mutual friend I immediately became his friend. That friend was Bruce Fenn, who lived in Auburn and not only worked with Schneider as a PSIA Examiner, but after a teaching career that included Stowe and founding the Wildcat Ski School he spent his later years coaching Lost Valley instructors going for their PSIA certification. That’s where I got to know Bruce, and I often listened to him telling of skiing in St. Anton, Austria, the Schneiders’ hometown.  

The only time I ever heard Herbert tell about the war was at the Mount Washington Hotel. At a ski writers banquet I had the privilege of presenting Schneider with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and after dinner Herbert, his son Christoph and I shared some Cognac and Herbert told how he and some of his fellow soldiers had driven an army truck to St. Anton at the war’s end. He told how everyone in town wondered who these Americans were at the Schneider home. Soon word got around that it was Herbert and the whole town turned out to celebrate, bringing the wine and spirits they had kept hidden from the Nazis during the occupation. 


Herbert Schneider embodied the spirit of the Meister Cup, which honors his father and the 10th Mountain Division. I always looked forward to seeing him up until his death. The turnout for a celebration of his life brought together the entire valley. 

Schneider wasn’t the only one from the Mount Washington Valley to serve in the 10th. In the book, one of the trainees was quoted, “My instructor is especially good, he comes from Hannes Schneider’s School at North Conway, Arthur Doucette….I never felt so well on skis before”. I don’t know if Art ever heard those words, but he was certainly well known in the Mount Washington Valley as a ski instructor.  

My favorite recollection of Art Doucette comes from interviewing him for an article I wrote about 30 years ago, I believe on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Mount Cranmore. I have since learned that there are pictures of skiers and skis in a local church. I haven’t seen the pictures, but Doucette told me the story of the Blessing of the Skis. Someone came up with the idea that it would be good if their skis were blessed before the weekend’s skiing. Doucette and his buddies saw this as a way to make a buck or two. They found a priest who agreed to do the blessing for a donation of 25 cents a pair. They gathered the skis and charged the skiers 50 cents a pair. It would have worked out fine except for the ski rack they used on the back of their station wagon to transport the skis. The skis were attached standing upright at the rear of the wagon, which would have been OK if they hadn’t driven into the garage with the skis still attached. I don’t know how Doucette and his buddies settled things after the mishap, but the story is still legend in the valley. 

There were others from the Mount Washington Valley who served but not mentioned in the book. Bob Morrell, after serving with the 10th, returned home to build Storyland. Dick May wasn’t with the 10th, but did wind up with their skis, which went to Boston instead of Italy. The folks who warehoused the skis didn’t realize they were pairs and mixed them all up. It took Dick weeks to match them up again. He returned to spend years as marketing director at Wildcat. Of course, we had a number of 10th Mountain veterans here in Maine, most notably Chummy Broomhall. Auburn’s John Lander was also a veteran of the 10th and served on the ski patrol at Sunday River. This list could go on, but if you want the whole story of the 10th Mountain Division, get the book, “The Winter Army.” 

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