World War II veteran leaves legacy of service, love of Steamboat
Crosby Perry-Smith, the last living Steamboat Springs resident to have been a part of the 10th Mountain Division, died last week at the age of 98 at Casey’s Pond.
“He specialized in demolitions, and he was (stationed) in the Po Valley, Monte Belvedere, Lake Garda and Riva Ridge,” said Robin Allen, Perry-Smith’s daughter. “He was proud to be part of the 86th Infantry.”
His legacy is written in the history books as part of the 10th Mountain Division’s impact on World War II in Europe, but it’s also felt in Steamboat Springs, where he spent years and helped shape the community.
“He was tough as nails, but everybody will tell you that,” said legendary ski racer Jim Barrows. “He was our coach. He wrote a hard bargain to be a good racer — he showed you how to be fast. He instilled attitude in everybody to have a tough attitude and that’s the way you do it. It was definitely Crosby.”
Perry-Smith may have been born in Cape May, New Jersey, on Nov. 9, 1923, but his love of skiing and the outdoors made him a perfect fit for Steamboat Springs, even before moving here after World War II.
His story begins in much the same way as those growing up in Steamboat Springs: He was on his first set of skis at age 5, on the ski jump shortly thereafter and started competing at a high level by age 10, when he took his first flight in Lake Placid, New York.
He won the 18-year-old class at the National Ski Jumping Championships at age 14. He set the hill record at the Maine State Championships in 1942 before landing at Syracuse University, where he competed for the ski team in all four events — Alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined. He also won the New York Intercollegiate Jumping and Combined title.
By the time Perry-Smith reached Syracuse, however, the United States was locked into World War II. Perry-Smith enlisted in the Reserve Corps training program when he arrived at Syracuse, and within the year, he was called to serve. He volunteered to be a part the 10th Mountain Division because he heard service would include skiing, rock climbing and other skills he was familiar with.
He went to bootcamp in Georgia at Camp Wheeler, trained at Camp Hale on Tennessee Pass near Leadville and wrapped up in Texas at Camp Swift before being sent to Italy to help the Allies close the doors on the war.
Perry-Smith saw action in places like Riva Ridge, Monte Belvedere and Montese. He saw heated action and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for distinguishing himself during fighting at Lake Garda near Navene.
After the war, Perry-Smith returned to the United States and was drawn to Steamboat Springs because of the town’s ski jumps. He was taken in by Art and Lucy Bogue while working to improve the jumps, and Allen said he became a lifelong friend of the family.
Perry-Smith competed with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club from 1946-1950 while attending Western State College, now known as Western Colorado University, where he got a bachelor’s of arts degree in business.
While in Gunnison, he was the founding member of the Western State College ski team. He also played a role in getting Sven Wiik from Sweden to Colorado. Wiik was a huge proponent for Nordic skiing in Colorado and went on to build the Scandinavian Lodge in Steamboat Springs. Perry-Smith was named to the national ski jumping team that traveled to Oslo, Norway, for the 1952 Olympics.
Following college, he worked for the Federal Civil Service as a technical advisor to the military at Fort Carson, where he trained special forces, rangers, paratroopers and regimental combat teams.
Eventually, he returned to Steamboat Springs with his wife, Winona, and his daughters Clarinda and Robin. He managed Howelsen Hill and worked for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club as head ski coach. In the summer, he managed and operated the downtown swimming pool while teaching swimming.
Petty-Smith left Steamboat in the 1960s for Sacramento, California, working for Acacia Mutual Life Insurance. But his passion for ski jumping didn’t melt in the California sun, and he served as chief of the ski jumping hill at the 1960 Olympic Games, hosted at the resort that is now known as Palisades Tahoe.
He returned to Denver in 1970 where he continued to work for Acacia, but was soon contacted by Thor Groswold who persuaded him to lead the jumping programs at Winter Park from 1970-1985.
Perry-Smith’s accomplishments in skiing earned him the Halstead Trophy for Outstanding Contribution to the sport of skiing in 1982. He was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1992, the Western State College Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and the National Ski Jumping Hall of Fame in 2012.
Perry-Smith lived in Ouray in his later years, where he continued to enjoy skiing, hiking, swimming and soaking at the Ouray pool. At age 70, Perry-Smith was introduced to art and began painting landscapes with the direction of Janet Carlile, a professor of art at Brooklyn College.
He returned to Steamboat in 2014 and continued to enjoy skiing with family and friends until the age of 95. He is survived by his daughters Clarinda Spees of Twin Falls, Idaho, and Robin Allen of Steamboat Springs. He had six grandchildren and five great grandchildren. A celebration of life will be held 2-5 p.m. Nov. 12 at Howelsen Hill.
“He loved being with his family,” Allen said. “He was so grateful for his family and his friends and he will be missed.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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