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#127 Outing Club Sought to Build the Alden Partridge Trail

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, This Week in History

Ski slope at Norwich University, approximately 1929-1938

Ski slope at Norwich University, approximately 1929-1938

The NU Outing Club was founded in February 1922 with the goal of encouraging “healthy and instructive winter sport” in the spirit of our founder, Alden Partridge.

The establishment of the Outing Club at Norwich University in 1922 was part of a regional and national movement in favor of outdoor recreation and appreciation of our nation’s natural beauty. Vermont’s historic Long Trail was under construction and would be completed in 1930. The Outing Club soon became affiliated with the recently established New England Trails Conference, which counted among its members similar college clubs from Dartmouth, Amherst, and Williams.

Within their first few years of existence, the Outing Club’s membership constructed multiple small cabins in the mountains surrounding Northfield to serve as stopping points for hiking and snowshoeing expeditions. They also began work on bold plans to clear a trail from Northfield to Norwich that they intended to call the Alden Partridge Trail. While it resulted in several popular scenic trails and shelters being cleared in the mountains around Northfield, it seems this vision never came to fruition.

Interest in the activities of the Outing Club was invigorated after the establishment of the Mountain and Cold Weather training program in 1947. The following year, in 1948, the university hired Benjamin Ferrier, an assistant professor of physical education and former professional mountain guide, to serve as the director of the Outing Club. For many years, the club served as the driving force behind Winter Carnival, the establishment of the ski team, and construction of campus skiing infrastructure.

In a spirit that makes Norwich University unique to this day, the efforts of the Outing Club married the benefits of physical activity with the natural beauty that surrounded them in the rolling terrain of Vermont. The Outing Club was active throughout much of the 20th century, fading out in the early 1990s. Today, the Shaw Outdoor Center continues the club’s legacy, offering free equipment rentals and clinics in snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and more.

You can learn more about the early history of the Outing Club through resources in the Norwich University Archives, such as this 1923 Guidon article that describes its founding and purpose.