BRATTLEBORO — A lot of things have changed over the past 100 years, but many things have remained the same, and that includes the mission and values of the Brattleboro Outing Club.
“The mission of the Brattleboro Outing Club is to promote community participation in outdoor activities by developing, operating, and sponsoring affordable recreation programs, events, and facilities in Brattleboro and the surrounding towns,” wrote Dave Twombly, president, in the Fall/Winter newsletter to the community. “I am proud to tell you the Outing Club has increased membership in all our programs, summer and winter, despite more than a year of pandemic restrictions. It’s clear: Brattleboro supports the Outing Club, and loves our beautiful natural outdoors.”
Twombley told the Reformer the year before the pandemic, BOC had 220 skier-members.
“Last year we had 350.”
On the night of Friday, Feb. 18, from 6 to 8, the Outing Club is celebrating its 100th anniversary at the Harris Hill Ski Jump with a bonfire, hot chocolate and fireworks, all free to the public. The main attraction though will be a first-ever, under-the-lights competition that night, a unique “kickoff” to the 100th anniversary Harris Hill Ski Jump competition set for Feb. 19-20.
“The Brattleboro Outing Club and Harris Hill will be honoring our founder, Fred Harris, on Friday night,” said Twombly.
The Outing Club and its members owned and operated the ski jump for 83 years, noted Twombly.
“The Harris Hill Ski Jump was a major fundraiser for the BOC,” he said.
In February 1921, Harris organized the town’s first Winter Carnival, with races and events on the Retreat Meadows.
Then, using $2,200 of his own money, Harris built the ski-jumping hill and wooden trestle tower on Cedar Street. The first event, on Feb. 4, 1922, drew more than 2,500 spectators.
Harris also built the tennis clubhouse on Cedar Street.
But in 2006, with the ski jump needing nearly $600,000 worth of repairs and renovations, BOC transferred ownership of the hill to Harris Hill Ski Jump Inc. for $1.
The ski jump was closed until 2009, when it hosted the 85th Fred Harris Memorial Ski Jump and the event has been running strong ever since.
This year, the Brattleboro Outing Club is reopening, after a pandemic closure, its newest amenity for outdoor enthusiasts — a ski hut for the its Cross County Ski program at the Brattleboro County Club.
The hut was built by students at the Windham Regional Career Center, said Twombly, who is also the chairman of the BOC’s cross-country ski program. Starting at the hut, skiers have access to 33 kilometers of groomed ski runs at the Country Club.
“The program hosts Brattleboro High School’s Nordic Boy and Girls Ski teams, teaches young area school children how to ski, and hosts many winter events through the holidays and during Winter Carnival in February,” he said.
Another three miles of marked showshoe trails are scheduled for this year, said Twombly.
The BOC also has an agreement with the Retreat Farm and neighboring landowners to use the area as a “dog trot trail,” where snowshoers and cross-country skiers can bring their dogs.
“The club’s mission in 1922 was to encourage, develop and promote outdoor family life and good fellowship,” said Twombly, a tradition that continues with BOC’s other programs including tennis, which now has six outside clay courts, paddling and RowBOC, also known as the Brattleboro Outing Club Rowing Program.
Last year, the BOC boasted 550 members, he said, with members from three states and 23 towns.
Those members have access to the dock and boathouse on Spring Tree Lane as well as a variety of boats available for sweep and sculling in singles, doubles, pairs, quads, and fours. That comes with a caveat, though: Certain boats are available only to members who have demonstrated advanced rowing skill and boat handling in and out of water.
BOC also hosts group rows throughout the season.
“I’m continually blown away by the effort, energy and community spirit of the entire BOC community that makes our club so special,” said Twombly. “This has been particularly true this last year and a half with so much of our lives being changed or put on hold. For many of us the BOC has represented a much needed opportunity for recreation and friendship.”
The club’s six tennis courts are open to members from late April until early November, with adult membership at $235 per person, per year, though children 21 and under are free when they are signed up with a parent, guardian, or Big Brother/Sister. The junior membership fee is $40 per year, and guests are welcome to play with a member for a $20 fee-per-court use. The Outing Club also hosts tennis tournaments during the season.
The Summer Paddling Program is for people who have their own kayak, canoe or paddleboard. The Outing Club hosts 18 outings a year. Last year the club hosted a number of them on the Connecticut River, one on Tully Lake in Royalston, Mass., and one Gale Meadows Pond in Winhall.
To learn more about the Brattleboro Outing Club, its programs and fees, or to volunteer, visit brattleborooutingclub.org.