Everyone knows that Hamilton, N.Y., gets piles of snow, so it’s no surprise that skiing has been one of Colgate’s most popular activities.
Back when the university had an annual winter carnival in the early 1900s, ski races were a main part of the event, where fraternities and other student residences competed against each other to win the house cup.
By 1937, skiing became the coolest way to get some exercise in winter. As the Colgate Maroon wrote on December 13 of that year, “A Colgate man without a pair of skis is as out of place as a horse without a tail.” Cross-country skiing was more common, but the ski hill was gaining popularity. Much of this was due to the efforts of David W. “Doc” Trainer [B], a geology professor who encouraged skiing on all levels. Trainer required those who didn’t know how to ski to report to him in the gym for instruction before venturing out on the hill alone. He also helped turn skiing into a varsity sport at Colgate by 1939. In 1941, the ski hill was dubbed Trainer Hill.
The ’50s and ’60s saw the expansion of many Colgate facilities, including Trainer Hill. Under President Vincent M. Barnett Jr. (1963–1969), the ski hill was extended and a t-bar lift, lighting, and snowmaking equipment were added.
At one point, Colgate hired a professional skier from Switzerland as an instructor to teach classes and to coach the ski team. Students filled up the physical education classes, and the children’s ski program was also successful.
The skiing tradition continued through the years, and the university continued its efforts to attract people to the hill.
According to an advertisement in The Colgate News on Feb. 22, 1991, the hill was open to the public six days a week. But, just four days later, The Colgate Maroon told a different story, with a front-page headline reading: “University to Close Trainer Hill.” The cost outweighed the benefits, and the equipment needed repairs.
A year later, Outdoor Education started offering lessons at nearby Toggenburg Mountain, and the ski team started practicing there, too. Although it’s now a club sport, Colgate’s ski team can still shred with some of the best. And, the Ski and Snowboard Club is one of the biggest student organizations on campus.