The Soul Gallery: Hugh Evans

Soldier in the 10th Mountain Division, war hero, family man

Hugh Evans, war hero, family man, born 1924. PHOTO: Scott Markewitz
Hugh Evans, war hero, family man, born 1924. PHOTO: Scott Markewitz

The Soul Gallery, a tribute to iconic figures who defined skiing, originally ran in the January 2014 issue (42.5). As pure as snowflakes drifting through the sky, each winter represents a clean slate—an opportunity to meet new people, accomplish new goals, learn lessons about yourself and nature, and be reborn as you fly through deep powder snow. What happens when you can experience this every season throughout a lifetime? What lessons do you learn? What can you accomplish when you ski not just for years, but decades?

For a handful of old timers, the annual return of winter gives them the means to influence everyone around them. Season after season, storm after storm, they see things differently than everyone else, and they keep at it long after others slow down or simply give up. They are the pioneers, visionaries, innovators, artists, and warriors who are fully committed. Eventually, their accomplishments help define an entire sport.

Today, these skiers remind us where we came from and what lessons we can learn in order to follow in their tracks.

When Hugh Evans turns 90 years old this March, he’s planning to celebrate by skiing into one of Colorado’s 34 backcountry huts dedicated to the 10th Mountain Division. He has already been to every hut in the system, and he always finds a reason to go back.

Hugh Evans was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry while fighting in the Italian Alps. PHOTO: Scott Markewitz
Hugh Evans was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry while fighting in the Italian Alps. PHOTO: Scott Markewitz

“I go for the quiet and peace and friendships. There’s no interruptions from television, and I don’t allow cell phones on my trips,” says Evans, who lives in Boulder. “Just being together with family and friends, melting the snow to make your water, cooking up your meal, washing up afterward, B.S-ing, singing, things of that sort.”

It’s also his way of honoring the legacy of the 10th, through which he was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry while fighting in the Italian Alps. In February 1945, his platoon leader, Sgt. Bob Fischer, died in his arms after sustaining multiple gunshot wounds. An angry Evans then stormed up the mountain and took control of two Axis machine-gun nests. “There are times you take action when you see action is needed,” he says, “and that’s what happened.”

After the war, many soldiers who fought in the 10th were instrumental in kickstarting skiing in the United States. They built resorts and ski equipment and became ski patrollers and instructors. Though Evans had skied his entire life—learning the craft on Donner Summit as a child growing up in San Francisco’s North Bay, and continuing during high school at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire—he put it aside to pursue a career and family. But skiing was never that far away. While working as a mining engineer, he traveled to Australia, where he went skiing with borrowed skis and boots “just for the experience.” On another work trip to Europe, he skied a portion of the famous Haute Route and climbed and skied from just below the summit of Mont Blanc.

It wasn’t until he moved back to Colorado in the 1970s that skiing became a more frequent part of his routine, and it still keeps him going every winter. “My younger friends and family always challenge me, and I’m foolish enough to try to follow them,” he says.

Also in The Soul Gallery: Klaus Obermeyer