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#129 Norwich’s First Ski Instructor Was an Austrian Champion

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, This Week in History


1939 Ski Team

Sepp Ruschp was the Norwich University ski coach from 1936 to 1943. After the Outing Club and the first skiing infrastructure on Paine Mountain were both established in the 1920s, cadets showed great interest in continuing to grow the university’s ski program. At the urging of Outing Club members, the university hired Austrian ski coach Sepp Ruschp to establish a ski school in 1936.

“Herr Ruschp,” as he was referred to in the student newspaper, had just arrived in Vermont from Austria, where he had been a champion member of the national ski team. Skiing was just beginning to take off in the United States, and Ruschp was hired in 1936 as an instructor at the Mount Mansfield Ski Club in Stowe, Vt., a post he would hold for many years.

Sepp Ruschp

But it was not only on the slopes of Mount Mansfield where Ruschp made his mark. The same year he immigrated from Austria to work at Mount Mansfield, he became Norwich’s first ski instructor. The program started with two group lessons each week for interested cadets. It became popular so quickly that two years later, in 1938, Ruschp was hired as the coach for the newly formed ski team (previously, members of the Outing Club participated in local competitions on an ad hoc basis).

Ruschp never returned to his post as coach and instructor after World War II disrupted normal university operations. After the war, his winter sport legacy could be clearly seen in the creation of the Mountain and Cold Weather company in 1947 and the growth of Paine Mountain’s ski infrastructure throughout the 20th century.

Ruschp eventually became president of the Mt. Mansfield Company and is credited with popularizing skiing in the United States and transforming Stowe into a world-class skiing destination. He was inducted into the United States Ski Hall of Fame in 1978. He made his lifelong home in Stowe and passed away in 1990.