Fire on the Mountain

Director: Beth Gage, George Gage
Screenwriters: Beth Gage

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


This story about America’s only infantry unit ever trained for mountain and winter warfare, the Tenth Mountain Division, is an absolutely fascinating examination of men who quite literally were at the forefront of a change in American lifestyle, the coming wave of skiing and mountain recreation. Established at the beginning of America’s involvement in World War II, the Tenth Mountain Division was unique because it required letters of recommendation; it was in fact recruited by a civilian organization, the National Ski Patrol, and was formed from the impetus of a sport, skiing.

In Fire on the Mountain, what might have been only rather obscure military history instead evolves into an engrossing portrait of men who were the best skiers, mountaineers, and outdoorsmen in America at a time when to be defined as such was a testament to real distinction and individuality. The history of the Tenth Mountain Division is a compelling tale of invention, fortitude, perseverance, and heroism. Ground-breaking training and equipment development are but a minor part of the overall chronology leading to their remarkable feats of battle in the mountains of Italy in 1944.

But it’s these men’s impact in peacetime that makes this film so interesting. The men of the Tenth Mountain Division were America’s ski pioneers. They started ski areas, built lifts, cleared trails, and manufactured equipment. More than two thousand veterans became ski instructors, and sixty-two American resorts came into existence as a result of their efforts. They not only launched skiing as an enterprise; they also headed environmental organizations, organized special associations, designed the architecture that has characterized most resort villages, broke trails for the blind and disabled, and even started a little shoe company called Nike. Fire on the Mountain is a personal, social, and historical examination of individuals whose incredible impact and contributions have yet to be fully realized and assessed. This film goes a long way toward opening our eyes.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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