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Celebrating 200 Years—Learn More About Norwich


Students in winter clothes, heavy jackets, gloves and knit hats, walk through the snow at Shaw Outdoor Center on Norwich University’s campus.

Shaw Outdoor Center offers outdoor fun for Norwich University’s fitness-minded community

The Shaw Outdoor Center will cap a busy fall semester with several more free chances to let Norwich’s community get its outdoors on.

The outdoor center, opened in 2012, sits 500 paces from the Wise Campus Center and offers free use of outdoor recreational equipment and access to Paine Mountain’s trail system for hiking, mountain biking, alpine touring, sledding, snowshoeing, trail running and more. The center also offers chances for rock climbing, cross-country skiing, paintball, disc golf, ice climbing, sledding and wilderness camping.

“In the words of a recent graduate, ‘If it (weren’t) for academics, I’d be on the trails all day.’”Collin O’Neil, manager, Shaw Outdoor Center

“The Shaw Outdoor Center really shines in the fall,” Shaw Outdoor Center Manager Collin O’Neil said by email. “Our amazing trail network is totally dry, the air is crisp, and the views are spectacular. In the words of a recent graduate, ‘If it (weren’t) for academics, I’d be on the trails all day.’”

Several events, open exclusively to Norwich students, faculty and staff, remain on the docket in the coming days and weeks. The center’s nighttime rock climbing series will run 7 to 10 p.m. on three Friday nights, Nov. 1, Nov. 8 and Nov. 15. Climbers of all abilities are welcome; gear and instruction will be provided.

Mountain bikes are among the equipment available to the Norwich University community at Shaw Outdoor Center. (Photo by Mark Collier.)

On Nov. 3, the center will host a guided mountain bike ride on Paine Mountain. Registration is required for the event, set for noon to 2 p.m.

On Dec. 6, Shaw will host an off-campus climb at the Metro Rock Climbing Gym, 320 Sunderland Way in Essex Junction. Prospective climbers will gather in the Shaw lobby and travel together to the event, set for 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.

Also, a  first aid certification course open to both the general public and Norwich’s community will run Dec. 7 in the center’s lobby. Cost is $20 for the Norwich community; $35 for the general public.

O’Neil said winter weather will give the outdoor center a new dimension.

“Once there’s a solid snowpack the terrain on Paine Mountain is transformed into an awesome winter playground,” he said. “With miles of groomed trails for activities including fat biking, running and sledding, plus the many acres of terrain open for skiing, snowboarding and sledding, we provide many opportunities to play outdoors.”

Weather can make spring hard to gauge; given dry days and rising temperatures, the bike trails offer an attractive diversion, O’Neil said. If the weather remains cold and wet, the center will focus on instruction, offering courses in first aid and CPR certification, bike maintenance, campfire building, fly fishing, disc golf and mountain biking.

Learning track

In 2017, as the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus reported, the center opened a new teaching track to give novice mountain bikers the skills to handle Paine Mountain’s steep thoroughfare. The track helps riders learn basic skills, like shifting, handling short descents aka “drops”; navigating banked turns; handling obstacles; and riding over rocks.Summers offer chances for hiking, kayaking, camping and sailing.

As the Norwich Guidon reported in 2011, a $1.4 million donation by Larry Costa ’80 helped fund construction of the center, which was named for John Shaw, who was a Mountain Cold Weather instructor when Costa was a Norwich cadet.

Shaw served 20 years in the U.S. Army, serving two tours in Vietnam. In 1995, Costa and Shaw, who retired from the Army in 1982, co-founded Worldwide Language Resources, a successful contractor of translators and rare foreign-language speakers for the U.S. military, the Guidon reported.

O’Neil said the center fits with Norwich’s stay-fit, enjoy-the-outdoors personality.

"What’s in your DNA? Ours includes the active gene, you know, it’s what keeps us seeking the next adventure, challenge, and commitment, it makes us say, “I will try.” We push ourselves beyond the ordinary, and the easy, choosing to stay physically and mentally active," O'Neil said. 

"We encourage our community to take advantage of our facilities, and those of the surrounding Green Mountains, in fact that’s what we’re all about. Try, push, excel, teach, empathize, and contribute to your community, live and learn it with the Shaw and Norwich."

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information on Shaw Outdoor Center and its activities.

Or visit SHAW page to learn more

(Slideshow photos by Mark Collier.)

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Norwich University admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.