The Wisconsin Hoofers was begun in 1920 by a group of Norwegian exchange students who built a ski jump on the UW-Madison campus by Lake Mendota. The club was originally called the Badger Ski Club. Porter Butts, the first director of the Memorial Union (Wisconsin), was instrumental in establishing the Wisconsin Hoofers. The first Hoofers club, a skiing and outing club, was established in 1931, modeled after the Dartmouth Outing Club. The name "hoofers" is similar to the term "heelers" used for the new members of the Dartmouth club and reportedly was designed to imply "getting there under your own power." In 1976 Hoofers listed over 5,600 members.
Hoofer Sailing Club
The Hoofer Sailing Club operates at Memorial Union, on the south shoreline of Lake Mendota on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. It has a fleet of more than 120 boats, sailboards and kites. The club has around 1,000 members, but has had upwards of 1,500 members in the past. It is believed to be the second-largest inland sailing club in the country. The club has a highly-active instruction program, with thousands of lessons each season taught by paid and volunteer staff. Members have free access to use equipment after they have completed their instruction and earned a certification. In the winter months, the club has on-land classes and a snow-kiting program.
The sailing club originated in 1939 as an all-volunteer club whose members maintained boats and taught each other how to sail on wooden dinghies. Peter Barrett brought the first wooden Tech dinghy from M.I.T. in the 1950s, and it became the club's signature boat. Peter and Olaf Harken modified M.I.T.'s fiberglass Tech design with air tanks under the gunwales, so that a capsized boat could be righted and come up mostly dry, to create the Badger Tech dinghy. The two brothers founded their first company, Vanguard Sailboats, to construct a fleet of these boats.
The club has expanded to sail fifteen types of craft today. The club's largest boat is Soma, a Mull 34 racing yacht painted to resemble a Holstein cow. In 2003, it added a cruising sailing curriculum with the donation of Spray, a 30-foot cruising yacht, by a retired electrical engineering professor. The cruising program was very popular, and so in 2010, the club became an American Sailing Association-certified school. (There are charges in addition to the dues for ASA certifications and classes.)
Hoofer Ski and Snowboard Club
Originally started as the Badger Ski Club with three pairs of skis in 1931, the Ski and Snowboard club has grown to one of the largest clubs of its kind. The club plans a variety of ski and snowboard trips for University of Wisconsin students and union members, ranging from out west, Midwest, and local trips. It had been long-standing tradition that the club organize a 200+ person trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, during the university's spring break. The Club also includes an Alpine Racing Team, Nordic Team,and Freestyle Team. Several annual campus events are organized by the club such as the Rail Jam freestyle competition at Union South and ski and snowboard movie premieres. Since 1963 the club has hosted a ski and snowboard resale every December, which has grown to be the largest in the Midwest. At the resale the local community can buy and sell new or used ski and snowboard equipment. Hoofer Ski and Snowboard Club also offers lessons to those who would like to learn to ski or ride or would like to improve their skills.
Hoofer Outing Club
Founded in 1945, the Outing Club combines a number of outdoor pursuits under a single umbrella club. The Outing club is an all-volunteer, student-run organization, though members need not be affiliated with the UW. The Outing Club is active year-round, with Interest Groups in Caving, Road Cycling, Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing, Telemark Skiing, XC Skiing, Whitewater Paddling, Flatwater Paddling, and Hiking/Backpacking. The club owns a piece of undeveloped property referred to as "Hooferland" near Lakewood, WI, which it uses to stage various weekend trips throughout the year.
The Outing Club was instrumental in developing the sport of whitewater paddling in Wisconsin in the 1960s, as it owned molds to build boats in its shop facilities in the basement of the Memorial Union. In the late 1970s, club member Gordy Sussman started a small outfit in his rental house near campus to make group purchases of paddles, and other equipment, to get discounts and save on shipping costs. He developed this operation into the Rutabaga Paddlesports shop, a successful local business that presents Canoecopia, claimed to be the world's largest paddlesports exposition.
Currently there are the following other specialized clubs:
- Hoofer Riding Club (including Hoofer Equestrian Center) (since 1939)
- Hoofer Mountaineering Club (since 1949)
- Hoofer SCUBA Club (since 1976)
- Badger Ski Club (1920, the first club, renamed Hoofer Skiing and Outing Club in 1931)
- Hoofer Skiing and Outing Club (1931, eventually becoming the Hoofer Ski and Snowboard Club)
- Hoofer Archery Club (1934, suffered from lack of permanent shooting range and in 1965 was made into Hunting Club, which was about shooting prey rather than targets; survived until 1967, folding into Hoofer Outing)
- Hoofer Canoe Club (1952–1957, folded into Hoofer Outing)
- Ecology Club (1970s, short-lived)
- Hoofer Environment Club (1980s, short-lived)
- Hoofer Gliding Club
- Brothers Paul Bietila and Walter Bietila, selected for the 1940 US Olympic ski jumping team. The Games were cancelled due to World War II. Walter became captain of the 1948 team, and later served on the US National Olympic Committee. Famous Hoofer Sailing Club members include Peter Barrett, an Olympic sailing gold (1968) and silver (1964) winner, and Peter and Olaf Harken, founders of Harken, Inc., a sailing-hardware manufacturer.
- "Early Hoofers History -'30s", a University of Wisconsin archive webpage
- Wisconsin Hoofers website
- "Old dogs, new tricks," Wisconsin State Journal, April 26, 2008
- Wisconsin Alumni Association Directory, Intro, p. xv, 2011
- "Still Making Waves". Wisconsin State Journal. 2000-08-02.
- Winter Seminars Online Brochure
- "Recent sightings: Snow kiting on Mendota"
-  Hoofer Sailing Club
- "University of Wisconsin Sailing Team - About Us". Retrieved 23 July 2016.
- "Tech Dinghy". Retrieved 23 July 2016.
- Sailing Club Fleets Webpage
- Wisconsin Department of Transportation, State Highway Map, 2004
- "American Sailing Association Schools in Wisconsin.". Retrieved 23 July 2016.
- "ASA Courses - Hoofer Sailing Club website". Retrieved 23 July 2016.
- Schnaiberg, Lynn (2003). Outside Magazine's Urban Adventure, Chicago. p. 178. ISBN 9780393323481.
- Peter Barrett Obituary
- Small Business Times, June 23, 2006
- CNC Machining Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 14, Summer 2000]\
- "How Other Sailors Learned," SailNet, August 31, 2001
- "Alumni News," University of Wisconsin-Madison Economics Alumni Newsletter, 2004, p. 8