US post-WWII ski race anniversary marked
Log pod Mangartom, 3 June - The 75th anniversary of a post-WWII ski race organised by US soldiers on the slopes of Mt Mangart in Slovenia on 3 June 1945 was celebrated on Wednesday. The event was attended by US Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard and Defence Minister Matej Tonin.
The race was organised by the 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army, a mountain warfare unit which was stationed in Slovenia after WWII because of its unresolved western border.
The Bovec municipality wished to celebrate the anniversary with a bang, however due to coronavirus concerns, lingering even after the official end of the Covid-19 epidemic, today's event was smaller than planned.
The expected premiere of a documentary about the race directed by US filmmaker and former extreme skier Chris Anthony has been hence postponed to next year. Skiing champion Mikaela Shiffrin narrated the documentary.
Bovec Mayor Valter Mlekuž vowed not only to screen the film in 2021, but also to bring to Slovenia descendants of the soldiers who had taken part in the race.
Meanwhile, Tonin noted that such historic events meant a symbolic bond between the US and Slovenia, NATO allies, as he addressed the event. The minister highlighted that the Allies, including the 10th Mountain Division, had shed blood for the freedom of European countries during WWII.
Blanchard also deemed the race an expression of a close bond between the Americans and Slovenians. After the ceremony, the ambassador was given a pair of skies by sports goods maker Elan. The silhouette of Mt Mangart has been painted on the present especially for this occasion.
The event was also attended by members of the Slovenian Armed Forces, with some taking to the famous slopes to honour the anniversary.
More than 70 US soldiers participated in the race, skiing down the 2,679-metre peak in the Julian Alps, but only 23 made it to the finish line.
The event marked the first time the US alpine skiers competed on European soil after the 1936 Winter Olympics. The division was comprised of many pre-WWII professional skiers, including European immigrants to the US, fleeing the German occupation.