“The Father of Strategy,” Hannibal was a Carthaginian military commander and tactician known for his invasion of Italy. The story that has not been told is about his ski trip in the Alps before his invasion of Italy.
It was in the late spring of 218 BC when Hannibal left New Carthage on his journey to Italy. On his way north he navigated his way through fierce tribes in the Pyrenees and reached the Rhone River before the Romans could impede his advance. Hannibal then maneuvered down the Rhone Valley toward the Alps where the little-known, but crucial, ski trip took place. The ski trip was a turning point in their travels as it boosted the morale of Hannibal’s elephants and infantry who were always up for some fun.
Hannibal’s war elephants frolicking among the hills.
It was at Heidi’s Ski Resort where Hannibal, 38,000 infantry, 8,000 cavalry, and 37 war elephants took a few days out of their hectic schedule to relax, enjoy each other’s company, and hit the slopes. Made of beech, the skis the men fashioned were rudimentary, yet very sturdy. Hannibal was said to have gone down the Double Black Diamond trail – unfortunately, his abilities to ski were unpolished after navigating elephants for several weeks. His generals, Pomilio and Corinsimus were able to dress his wounds incurred by coarse tree bark, and then they took him up one last time to the ski lift. He chose the Blue Square trail the second time.
In the picture above you will notice the different routes taken by Hannibal, his men, and elephants during the three-day ski trip. The cost was $15 per man, and each was responsible for renting his own equipment.
After Hannibal left Heidi’s Ski Resort he arrived into northern Italy near modern Turin. Following a series of victories for Hannibal, the war in Italy ended in a stalemate. However, Hannibal remarked until the day of his death that he enjoyed the trip very much and would do it again if he could. His favorite painting from the trip is one of him with General Pomilio flying down the mountain, while carrying a small child to safety.