During World War II, the American Army formed its first ski division. Most of the soldiers were very young. Some were already skiers while others had never been on snow before. The U. S. Army knew it would need trained alpine soldiers when they fought the Germans in the mountainous regions of Europe. These skiers were brave soldiers; in fact, their Tenth Mountain Division suffered some of the highest casualty rates during the war. Phantom in the Snow is based on their real life stories.
In 1944, fifteen-year-old Noah was orphaned and sent to live with his only known relative. His uncle, James Shelley, was an alpine soldier training at Camp Hale, Colorado. In order to give Noah a place to live, his uncle told the Army that his nephew was sixteen-years-old and gave him legal permission to enlist. Noah had grown up on a Texas ranch where it never snowed and his parents were pacifists who did not believe in war or violence. Noah finds himself at odds with his family values, as he begins his dangerous alpine training of skiing, shooting and mountain climbing.
Eventually Noah is shipped to Italy with his division and comes face-to-face with the reality of war. This book is both an excellent story of a boy finding his own courage and the story of a little known part of World War II.
Click here to listen to the story of the real Phantoms during World War II. After the war, many of the Phantoms went back to Colorado and the mountains and became ski instructors, Olympic ski coaches, and founded many of our famous ski resorts. Today, you can also ski on the old trail systems the Phantoms used in their training.