When Marie Tuchscherer arrived at UW–Madison as a transfer student in 2021, she was eager to embrace the city’s outdoor culture, particularly its lakes.
“I remember watching countless kayakers, windsurfers and sailors from the Terrace and thinking, ‘I want to be involved,’” Tuchscherer says. She soon found herself at Wisconsin Hoofers, the university’s premier outdoor organization. With six clubs ranging from horseback riding to skiing and snowboarding, Hoofers offers UW students, employees and community members the opportunity to learn outdoor skills and enjoy nature.
Tuchscherer joined the Outing and Sailing clubs and was immediately hooked. She jumped into the role of vice president for administration on the student-led Hoofers Council and set out to glean as much as possible from her peers and club leaders.
“Whether learning how to set up a bear-hang and clean backpacking gear or escaping to the lake after a long day of class, Hoofers has offered opportunities for me to learn hard skills to take into the outdoors or pass on to others — all while making great friends along the way.”
Summer on the water
While Hoofers operates year-round with activities appropriate for all types of Wisconsin weather, David Elsmo, director of Outdoor UW, which houses and supports Wisconsin Hoofers, finds summer an especially great time to get outdoors in Madison.
“Even though we’re locked between two lakes here in downtown Madison, many in our community don’t realize how easy it is to get out on the lakes and safely access the water,” he explains.
Complementing Hoofers clubs, Outdoor UW offers equipment rentals — including kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards. They also offer educational opportunities and recreation experiences with seasoned outdoor educators who train users of all levels on equipment use, outdoor skills and safety.
“I think when you’re sitting on the Terrace, it can seem like there’s some threshold you have to cross to get out on the lake,” Elsmo says. “Many people don’t realize that just 40 feet west of where they’re sitting, Hoofers and Outdoor UW are there to help them do exactly that. We provide the watercraft, the training and the life jackets at a great price point — and UW Lake Rescue & Safety is always there as a backup if needed.”
90 years of student leadership
In 2021, Wisconsin Hoofers celebrated its 90th anniversary, making it one of UW–Madison’s oldest — and largest — student organizations. In 1931, a committee of UW faculty, Wisconsin Union staff and students gathered to create a “skiing and outing club.” The group’s first logo, a black horseshoe superimposed on a red “W,” was designed to suggest that its members go places — they “hoof it” — and a club was born.
The club has evolved over the years, but Elsmo notes that Hoofers has always been organized and run by students, which he believes is central to its longevity.
“Ninety years ago the founders understood the importance of Hoofers as student-led and student-advised experiential education,” he says. “And since then the students have been responsible for all the programming, fundraising, budgets and equipment. Their work has had a real impact on what recreation looks like in our community.”
For her part, Tuchscherer is looking to make a greater impact, too. On May 1, the wildlife ecology major was elected Hoofers council president for the 2022–2023 term. She admits that while juggling her responsibilities and coursework can be challenging at times, the benefits are worth it.
“My involvement with Hoofers lets me embrace the busyness while growing my leadership and time management skills,” she says. “It’s given me a wealth of experience and many great connections. I’ve found that diving into Hoofers events and community especially brightens my experience as a student, bringing together the person I want to be with my day-to-day life on campus.”
She encourages her fellow Badgers to try out one of the six Hoofers clubs, each of which offers unique opportunities ranging from socials and casual meetings to lessons and certifications.
“Whether you need a break from summer courses or you’d just like to kickstart the season with a great community, we hope you get involved with Hoofers this summer!”
Visit the Wisconsin Hoofers website to learn more about clubs, student leadership opportunities and more. Learn about equipment rentals, classes and outdoor experiences at Outdoor UW. Check out student job opportunities with the Wisconsin Union — they’re hiring! Featured image by Jeff Miller / UW–Madison.