When we were designing our Alpine Anorak, we looked to the rugged, standard issue winter garments of the 10th Mountain Division for inspiration. This elite alpine division of the military trained in the mountains of Colorado in alpine skiing and maneuvers to prepare for deployment to Europe during WWII.
This garment came up over coffee with a good friend of ours in Portland, Maine, and it was suggested we get in contact with Andre Benoit. A veteran of the 10th, Andre trained recruits at Camp Hale, Colorado in alpine techniques and maneuvers. He's a true legend in the ski industry, having been inducted into the Maine Skiing Hall of Fame in 2012.
We visited Andre in Yarmouth, Maine one afternoon this October, and were amazed by his stories of camaraderie and his passion for the mountains.
As a boy, Andre was one of the first to ski lift-serviced trails in Maine, when a rope tow opened at Jockey Cap Rock in nearby Fryeburg in 1936. He proceeded to ski throughout high school at Kimball Union, and enlisted in the 10th in February, 1943 after accelerating his graduation from Bowdoin College.
As an experienced skier, he was charged with instructing new recruits at Camp Hale in ski technique and maneuvering, preparing them for the tough conditions and grueling ski fitness that faced them abroad.
It was a position that he enjoyed greatly, however not all men of the 10th were skiers like Andre. "In order to fill the unit, eventually they just drafted people. A lot of people had never even seen snow. They just drafted them and shipped them to Camp Hale. It kind of got out of hand there for a while..."
He eventually deployed to northern Italy in 1945, fought in a victorious campaign, and thereafter returned to Maine to work as part of the management team at A.H. Benoit & Company, a clothing store in Portland. With a passion for alpine sport and a business mind, Andre saw the need to offer ski hard-goods within the store. He sold Paris and Head skis, Henke boots and Marker bindings for the next few years, and eventually served as the exclusive distributor for Head skis in Maine.
Andre started a family with his wife Nancy, and taught his four children, Andy, Peter, Joan, and John to ski nearby. He retired from A. H. Benoit, but continued skiing, serving as a volunteer with the Maine Handicapped Skiing Program. He helped individuals with disabilities to enjoy the sport that he loved so much for over 25 years.
Andre continues to be involved with 10th Mountain Division veterans, and he relayed many stories of reconnecting with fellow vets at ski reunions every year in Colorado, Maine, and NH. Andre skied with his 10th Mountain brothers at these reunions until he was 91.
We're grateful for the opportunity to have met Andre in Maine. His passion for the mountains is strong, and his life of service, both in the military and working with adaptive skiers thereafter, is very honorable.
We're hoping to ski until 91 just like Andre did. Although he wouldn't say, we're pretty sure that the secret to his ski longevity was making time to meet up with old friends in the mountains each and every year. Noted...