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Dartmouth Outing Club celebrates 100 years

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 02/04/09 • Media Contact: Steven J. Smith (603) 646-3661

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"It is not impossible that Dartmouth, in initiating this movement, is setting an example that will later find devotees among other New England and northern colleges."

- The Dartmouth, Dec. 17, 1909

Founded by Dartmouth student Fred Harris on Dec. 14, 1909, the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) began with a modest goal “to stimulate interest in out-of-door winter sports.” But Harris had big ideas, and after he organized Dartmouth’s first official Winter Carnival in 1911, the organization and the event were on their way to becoming famous in collegiate and outdoors-activities circles.

the first meeting of the Dartmouth Outing Club,
The first meeting of the Dartmouth Outing Club took place in the room of Fred Harris, Class of 1911, in 4 Fayerweather Hall dormitory on Dec. 14, 1909. Harris wrote afterwards: "It might be said that the D.O.C. was 'born' at this meeting." (courtesy Rauner Special Collections, Dartmouth College Library)

Today’s student-run DOC is a widely emulated, year-round outlet for the many Dartmouth students who enjoy outdoor sports and other activities — so many that they make up the largest membership of any Dartmouth undergraduate organization.

The DOC is celebrating with a full year of events, including Dartmouth’s 2009 Winter Carnival this Feb. 13-15. “Ours is the oldest outing club in the country, and in my opinion the strongest, so the fact that we’re one hundred years old and going strong is a great reason to celebrate,” says Andrew Palmer, Class of 2010, president of the DOC.

The origin of Winter Carnival at Dartmouth goes back to Harris’s simple field day in 1910 that featured snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. By the 1930s, with a crowning of a Queen, an “Outdoor Evening” of musical performances, and Boston running special trains to Hanover, Carnival became a national event. It was the subject of the 1939 film, “Winter Carnival.”

Students and alumni hiked up Mt. Moosilauke
Students and alumni hiked up Mt. Moosilauke on a sub-zero New Year's Day 2009 to kick off the DOC's Centennial celebration. (photo courtesy Rebecca Vogel '11)

Winter Carnival is just one of many customs begun at Dartmouth that have been adopted by colleges around the nation. Others include:

  • Intercollegiate Skiing - The DOC played a critical role in the sport’s development, sending five men to compete against Montreal’s McGill University in 1914 in one of North America’s first intercollegiate ski meets. Today, Dartmouth’s ski team, which won the 2007 NCAA championship, remains as part of the Outing Club – a unique arrangement among varsity sports teams.
  • First-year student “Trips” - Now a staple at many institutions, the DOC introduced the outdoor orientation trips in 1935. For five days students participate in such activities as hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, or fly fishing for their first official introduction to Dartmouth.
  • Woodsmen’s Weekend - The DOC began annual this intercollegiate contest in woodcraft in 1947. Events include the pole climb, fire build, pulp toss, log roll, packboard relay, axe throw, and chain throw.
  • Environmental Studies Division - One of the nation’s earliest Environmental Studies academic programs grew from a DOC club in 1971.

Dartmouth students—with easy access to the White Mountains, the Connecticut River, and Green Mountains of Vermont—have long been recognized for their physical and spiritual connection to the outdoors. A 1981 New York Times article on the DOC read:

“There is, nonetheless, more than a touch of truth in the [Dartmouth] song that also says, ‘They have the still North in their hearts, the hill winds in their veins.’ The college's natural surroundings are magnificent, and its outdoor activities program is unmatched in the nation.”

Today the club has over 1,500 student members, and as many non-student members, making it one of the largest collegiate outing clubs in the nation. Close to 90% of the first-year students are introduced to Dartmouth through DOC orientation trips. Leadership positions in the DOC are prestigious and competitive; there are often twice as many applicants as spots available.

Lodge "Croo" members
Lodge "Croo" members greet first-year students at Dartmouth following their five-day outdoor orientation trips. The DOC started the custom in 1935. (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

The DOC organizes over a thousand excursions a year, and maintains 20 cabins in the White Mountains and on Dartmouth’s 27,000-acre property, the Second College Grant. Students provide outdoor leadership and medical/safety education and maintain seventy-five miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. There are about a dozen clubs specifically dedicated to such activities as whitewater kayaking, hunting and fishing; mountain biking; organic farming; hiking and cabin maintenance, and rock climbing.

In addition to Winter Carnival the DOC is hosting a range of other centennial activities, including:

  • Feb. 21
    Winter Weekend in Second College Grant
    Dog sledding, nature tours, and commemoration of 50th year anniversary of Miller Quinn Tragedy
  • April 24-25
    Woodsmen’s Weekend
    Intercollegiate outdoor skills competition
  • May (date to be determined)
    Dartmouth Organic Farm
    Visit the 200-acres of gardens and woodlands
  • May (date to be determined)
    Trip to the Sea
    Canoe trip from the source of the CT River to Old Saybrook, Conn.
  • May 22-25 (Memorial Day weekend)
    100-Mile Trailwalk
    Hike 75 miles of the DOC’s Appalachian Trail plus all 25 miles of trail on Moosilauke
  • July 24-25
    Celebration at Moosilauke
    70th anniversary of the Ravine Lodge
  • September 6-17
    DOC Trips
    Centennial-themed for First Years, display in Rauner
  • October 10
    Hike entire Appalachian Trail with the DOC
    Reserve your section for this event, a first-ever on the AT
  • Oct. 23-24
    A peak bag of the 100 best mountains in Vt. And N.H.

For more info:

Dartmouth has television (satellite uplink) and radio (ISDN) studios available for domestic and international live and taped interviews. For more information, call 603-646-3661 or see our Radio, Television capability webpage.

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