The first Norwich skiing club was formed in 1899. The construction of infrastructure on Paine Mountain began in 1923 with the installation of a ski jump. Throughout the 1920s, the jump was raised to new heights each year as it was reconstructed every winter. In 1925, the “Outing Club” became a member of the Eastern Ski association. Cadets eagerly participated in skiing and snowshoeing competitions around the region, facing teams from Dartmouth, Middlebury, and University of Vermont as well as local residents from Northfield, Rutland, Brattleboro, and beyond.
Ski competitions grew to include jumping, downhill racing, slalom, and skijoring, a sport similar to waterskiing wherein one student on skis would be pulled by another student riding a horse. The first rope tow was installed in 1936, one of the first in Vermont. That same year, Austrian skier Sepp Ruschp became the ski team coach and head of the new Ski School. Lights were added to the slopes in 1937, making it possible for the team to practice during the dark days of a Vermont winter.
For nearly 40 years, the rope tow was the only conveyance up the mountain. A Poma platform lift improved things in 1962. The most dramatic transformation took place in 1970, when the ski area opened to the public. The installation that year of a chair lift and other major improvements transformed Paine Mountain into a regional skiing destination. Students, locals, and visitors alike enjoyed amenities such as a snack bar and miles of trails.
The chair lift ran for the last time in 1992, when the university closed the ski area for financial reasons. Today, cadets and locals still enjoy the Paine Mountain trails in all seasons thanks to the Shaw Outdoor Center, and discounted lift tickets to nearby resorts are available to those who just can’t resist the slopes.
The Norwich University Archives houses some historical records of the ski area and other administrative records that document its operations, which can be made available to researchers. Its evolution is also documented in numerous university publications, some of which are cataloged in the Archives’ serial publications index or available online.