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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Wisconsin Hoofers celebrates its 90th anniversary

Wisconsin Hoofers, the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s premier outdoors activity club on campus with over 2,000 members, celebrated its 90th anniversary on April 30 at Memorial Union. Alumni and current members gathered to commemorate the club’s history of adventure, community and outdoor endeavors. 

“Alumni sent in their favorite photos and told me a little bit about their good memories,” Hoofers Officer of Alumni Outreach Anna Maples said. “There's a big variety [of experiences] and it’s not once they graduate or once they’re done with the club it's over, alumni still feel connected. I know a lot of people have good memories here.” 

Hoofers was founded in 1931 by seven Norwegian ski jumpers hoping to promote skiing, which led to the conception of a university skiing and outing club several years later. 

Today, Hoofers consists of mountaineering, outing, riding, sailing, scuba, and ski and snowboard clubs. 

“I think we really know what we're doing now. In the past, it was much more of a casual, laid back [club] and I think it still is, as you can kind of just come for fun,” Maples said.

Hoofers also has an overarching governing council body, executive boards for each club, and committee, officer and chair positions.

“It's just a really great place for students to get a taste of leadership and also learn new skills. There's a lot of different positions where you can learn a lot which is great,” said Alice Farr, Hoofers Vice President of Marketing. 

After going through a period worrying about decreased leadership during the pandemic, Hoofers bounced back and is continuing to evolve, according to Farr. The organization developed a Canvas course to train outing trip leaders, as well as a website to ease leadership training.

“There's been a lot of passion and commitment this year to get things back to where they used to be, and even beyond that,” Farr emphasized.

Moving forward, Hoofers hopes to make the organization more accessible and inclusive, as there are financial and general barriers to involvement and acceptance in outdoor spaces. 

“We have a ton of people who come to us who have never camped before, and I think that's a really fulfilling part of it too, connecting people who have similar interests,” Farr said.

Maintaining connection with alumni, as many have donated to the club, is also a priority for Hoofers.

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“Continuing and remembering to honor the people who donated is super important to us,” Maples said. “We're always looking ahead and the centennial is coming up in 10 [years], so I think a lot of people are ready and they're excited for what is in the future.”

For over 90 years, Hoofers has had thousands of members. Many return to events and clubs because of the strong community that characterizes the organization. College students looking for new activities and experiences can come to Hoofers, which provides the freedom to explore and opportunities for leadership in the outdoors. 

“Madison is such a perfect playground for outdoor activities to begin with,” Farr said. “If you become a leader in our clubs and you want to lead a backpacking trip to Utah, we can get you the resources and the training to get that done. And I think that is really attractive for people.”

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