University of Vermont

Erickson - Teaching
Winter Sport Culture, Community, and Economy
 ENVS 296

Course Description and Project
Northern New England has a rich skiing heritage dating back to the late 1800s.  Many small rural communities in Northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York were built on a skiing and winter sport culture with roots in Northern Europe, and a winter lifestyle that sustained both community and economy throughout the long New England winter.  In many communities, the local ski hill or warming hut was historically the hub of culture, source of civic pride, and home to many sporting legends and Olympic heroes. 

An era of winter festivals, Carnival kings and queens, cross country ski marathons, and ski jumping and racing has begun to fade into memories of most rural communities.  Where once there were community-owned ski hills and economically accessible winter sport in every town and village, today are burgeoning ski resorts with economically inaccessible lift and equipment privileges.  Where once there was an outdoor, active, winter lifestyle and community cohesion, today there are indoor, sedentary, T.V. watchers and isolated individuals.  Even the modern ski industry, whose expansion has contributed to the struggles of local hills, has taken notice of the demise of winter sport culture as they’ve lost a traditional base of new skiers and boarders from local hills and trails.

This class addressed the demise of winter sport culture, community, and economy by working on a proposal to resuscitate a winter sport lifestyle in northern Vermont and New Hampshire.  The class investigated the success of the Maine Winter Sports Center (MWSC) in their mission to reestablish skiing as the dominant winter lifestyle in Maine.  Through investing in the quality and accessibility of both alpine and nordic skiing venues in rural Maine, the MWSC has promoted a new economic model for communities, offered healthier lifestyle choices for both young and old, and stimulated a quality of life that has inspired people to build a future in their hometowns.  The class met during the first two Mondays of March to prepare for a Spring Break trip to Northern Maine to live and learn (and ski!) with the moms and dads, school kids and athletes, business people and civic leaders who have worked to revitalize their communities through reestablishing a winter sport lifestyle.  Our web journal documents the trip.   In preparation for the trip, and during class meetings into April, the class researched communities in northern Vermont where similar investments may be possible and is preparing a proposal for a Vermont winter sports center concept.

Spring 2004:
    In class meetings: M  6 – 9 p.m., 3/1, 3/8, 3/29, 4/5
    Travel portion: March 14 – 20 (UVM spring break)

Web Journal of Trip

Last modified March 28 2004 09:11 PM

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