TTLG: 18 from an '18
Emma Sklarin '18 (right) stands on a Winter Carnival snow sculpture with friends.
Before my first Dartmouth winter, I’d seen snow exactly four times. Five if you count the only time it snowed in my lifetime in San Francisco: Dec. 20, 1998, (the day that holds my first memory). I’m two years old at the park with my grandma (Nana to us, although she tried to convince me to call her Aunt Birdy until I was five) and a few glorious snowflakes fall from the sky.
Everything stops. The whole park is filled with slack-jawed humans looking up at the sky, flecks of snow falling between exposed teeth. I look up at Nana, and she is excitedly shouting into strangers’ faces: “Isn’t it wonderful?” Nana’s never left Los Angeles, so this just might be her first time seeing snow, too. And you know what? It is wonderful.
That’s what the first snow at Dartmouth always feels like to me. Eyes big, snowflakes caught in my eyelashes, glittery world kind of wonderful. Maybe not the second, or the third snow. Maybe not that Wednesday freshman year when I walked to Earth Sciences 2 with two friends from Texas and we all cried a little bit on the way to the Life Sciences Center, our tears freezing to our cheeks.
But that night, it was negative 50 and we went out anyways, skipping through the snow and throwing snowballs at each other across frat row. The magic of winter always comes back around. In honor of 2018 I’m going back around to 18 ways I learned to love the spirit of the great, icy north.
1. Take the plunge.
To me, the Polar Bear Plunge is quintessential Dartmouth — bold, bracing, a little bit crazy. If you know me, you know I’m always up for a swim, and there’s not much that makes me feel more alive than jumping into Occom through the ice.
2. Dive into something you’re terrible at.
My sophomore year, my roommate and I joined the water polo team despite never playing before. We spent 85 percent of game days cheerleading from the bench and our moments of playing time largely underwater, but we had the time of our lives laughing about it. While I retired my Left Bench position at the end of the season, it was just the reminder I needed at the time that in college, you can be anything. Don’t miss your chance to be terrible at something really, really fun.
3. Find the very best sledding hill out there.
After three years at Dartmouth, I still don’t know how to ski, but I can say with confidence that my sledding is of DP2 caliber. Once, I sledded from Mid Fay right up to the gym steps for water polo practice. I forgot the polo balls in my dorm room and had to run back up the hill to get them, but for a minute there, it was all glory.
4. Do your reading in the sauna.
The gym sauna is unquestionably the best place to spend a few minutes of blissful heat … or an hour. If you don’t have time to relax, just bring your reading right on in with you.
5. Go hiking in the snow once (then never again).
It’s awesome to be able to say you hiked up Moose Mountain in sub-zero conditions, but I’m convinced there is no such thing as “type-one” fun on a snow hike. Try it at least onc — for bragging rights, of course.
6. Pretend it’s not winter.
Grab your speedo, slide your sunglasses on and crank up the happy lamps. Some of my favorite winter memories are the nights that my roommates and I invited all of our friends and floormates over for a little summer-style festivity. It’s always 80 degrees somewhere, my friends.
7. Get some windburn.
Once a week, the triathlon team joins the Upper Valley Running Club for fast laps around Occom. I leave with windburn on my face and the inexplicable feeling that I’ve conquered winter. Every once in a while it can be fun to grit your teeth, get out in the cold and push yourself.
8. Crack off a piece of your hair.
I didn’t realize the true danger of wet hair until the day that Milan Chuttani ’18 cracked off a big chunk of my frozen hair the first week of freshman winter. We laughed for 10 minutes about it, then I put my hood up until March.
9. Pick up a library book, just for fun.
It sounds crazy, I know, but there are so many ancient, beautiful books in the library. Once, a book caught my eye on the shelf above me while I was procrastinating in Sanborn. When I pulled it down, an exceptionally mysterious note from one ’86 to another fell out.
10. Go to a social event that you haven’t been to before.
Bake cookies at Phi Tau, go to an open meeting at Panarchy or a concert at One Wheelock — break out of that social box we’ve each carefully built for ourselves. It’s more fun, I promise.
11. Get spirited.
Scream at a hockey game and your best friend’s IM basketball game and that annual community squash tournament at the gym. School spirit and a little well-meaning heckling warms the body and soul.
12. Get in the game.
I’m returning to the bench this winter, only this time for my sorority’s IM hockey team. Do I know how to skate? Not exactly. But is my head in the game? You better believe it.
13. Ask your wisest professor for life advice.
I’ve been lucky to find incredible mentors in a few of my Dartmouth professors, and they’ve changed my life in more ways than they know. Don’t be afraid to ask a professor you love to coffee — you never know what kind of wisdom they’ve been waiting to share.
The most valuable thing I’ve ever done for myself is one of my high school’s offbeat traditions — three days and nights alone in the desert. While I would not recommend attempting a solo in 18W, I think it’s so important to find time to take pause and reflect on the ways in which we move through the world.
15. Get creative.
For all of the time we’re forced into the great indoors in the winter, we might as well make the most of it. Whether it’s painting with watercolors or finding a cozy chair to write in, it always feels good to get the inspiration flowing.
16. Celebrate fake holidays.
If there’s one thing that sets Dartmouth apart, it’s our deep love and respect for flair and a great party theme. In the dead of winter, themes are essential to the preservation of all things fun. If your friends are anything like mine, you’ll have no trouble spreading the fake holiday festivity.
17. Try pond hockey.
Since I’ve already mentioned that I can barely skate, I can’t expect you to imagine anything graceful here. Nevertheless, there’s truly nothing more beautiful than a snowy game of hockey on Occom!
18. Retreat into the wonder of the first time you saw snow.
Stick your tongue out when snowflakes fall. Let your eyes go big and your fingertips tingle in the frost. Throw snowballs at strangers. The magic of winter always comes back around.