Carnival sculpture once again a College-organized project

by Andrew Culver | 2/11/19 3:00am

Despite the warm weather, this year’s mammoth snow sculpture stands tall, bolstering the official Dartmouth tradition that has faded in recent years.

“I think 2015 was the last year one officially occurred,” Chris Cartwright ’21, who headed up this year’s sculpture build, said. 

Last year, the snow sculpture was not a College-organized endeavor, but rather funded by the Sphinx Foundation and built by a group of students and alumni.

“We were very much working on our own,” said Jimmy McHugh ’19, who helped to organize and build both this and last year’s sculpture.

This year, the sculpture’s organizers worked more closely with Dartmouth officials, the Office of Student Life and alumni relations to “start bringing [the sculpture] back as something the College is organizing, while the students are still doing the ground work,” according to McHugh. 

Outdoor Programs Office program coordinator for student advising Andrew Crutchfield ’18, who was in charge of overseeing the student construction, said that funding for this year’s sculpture came from an “interesting mix” of sources, with a third coming from the Office of Student Life, a third from the alumni relations office and the final third through the Sphinx Foundation donations.  

Both Cartwright and McHugh agreed that the weather presented the biggest challenge to the sculpture this year through a combination of warm temperatures and rain. 

“We had a little bit of an issue last year with weather, and this year we just got a little bit more unlucky, but I was happy we were still able to get a sculpture out there that looks pretty good given the conditions we had to work in,” McHugh said. 

Crutchfield agreed, adding that not only the recent warm weather but the large snowstorm a few weeks back threw off their construction schedule.

“The weather has been in opposition to us this entire time,” he said.

Cartwright, inspired by his parents’ memories of snow sculptures during their time at Dartmouth, joined the project last spring and ended up joining the Winter Carnival Council in order to make the snow sculpture a more official part of the weekend.

“Essentially that made me, in the eyes of the College, in charge of the project, so it was kind of accidental how I became heavily involved in it,” he said.

Cartwright said that once the Winter Carnival theme was announced, the building team had three main goals for the sculpture: that it match the theme, that it be feasible for construction and that it connect to some element of the Dartmouth community. The mammoth was a natural choice given this year’s Carnival theme, “Ice Age.” 

“Initially we wanted to do a mammoth going down skiing, but we thought we would not be able to support the structure, so we did a toboggan run,” Cartwright said. 

“Initially we wanted to do a mammoth going down skiing, but we thought we would not be able to support the structure, so we did a toboggan run.”

No one helping with this year’s construction had much snow carving experience, he said.

“We’ve honestly been totally figuring it out on the fly,” Cartwright added.

While Cartwright and the Dartmouth Outing Club headed up most of the snow sculpting, McHugh led members of the football team and Gamma Delta Chi in volunteer efforts. Volunteers constructed the wooden frames which held the snow in place during the initial stages of construction. 

“Last year, we used concrete forms to dump the snow into, but the concrete companies were super swamped this year, so the students built our own forms,” McHugh said. “It felt really good to get that accomplished.”

Cartwright said that finding people to help build the sculpture this year was difficult.

"Just getting volunteers out there was a big challenge,” Cartwright said.

“I’m already thinking about next year honestly,” he said, adding that figuring out what worked to motivate people to help and what didn’t is crucial in planning how to make the sculpture better for next year.

“I think it came out remarkably well and that was entirely because of the students' efforts and their dedication to making sure that it would happen regardless of conditions,” Crutchfield said.

Correction Appended (Feb. 13, 2019): This article previously misstated the source of funding for the snow sculpture last year and this year. The Sphinx Foundation funded the sculpture in 2018 and contributed a third in 2019.