Snow sculpture rises to new heights as Winter Carnival approaches

by Gigi Grigorian | 1/30/20 2:05am

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Wood planks keep the true identity of this year's snow sculpture a secret.

by Julia Levine / The Dartmouth

The College’s 110th annual Winter Carnival, based on the theme “A Blizzard of Unbelievable Beasts,” will begin next Thursday. While the celebration has not yet begun, its preparations are visible on campus — namely with the large wooden scaffolding of the traditional snow sculpture in the center of the Green. 

The annual snow sculpture, constructed by a team of students, has come to symbolize Winter Carnival weekend, according to snow sculpture chair Christopher Cartwright ’21. This year’s sculpture will be a “recognizable monster,” in keeping with the theme, Cartwright said. The exact creature has not yet been officially announced, though the general shape of the scaffolding has led to some speculation. 

Cartwright, along with snow sculpture designers Luca Di Leo ’22 and Francis Sapienza ’21, approached the design process for the sculpture with a goal in mind: 

“We wanted to go taller than it’s been in a while,” he said.

However, with size comes safety concerns. Cartwright pointed to the 2009 Moosilauke Ravine Lodge snow sculpture as an example of one that collapsed during a heat spell and subsequently had to be bulldozed. 

“It was very ambitious,” Cartwright said. “They wanted [students to be able to] walk inside it.” 

Since then, the College has been “more nervous” about internal structures, Cartwright said. For that reason, the students involved in the design of this year’s sculpture had to submit detailed plans to the College outlining the sculpture’s internal structure, framework and size, among other parameters.

Attaining the desired height is not an easy task. According to Cartwright, the first eight feet of snow in the sculpture was dumped into place by College facilities operations and management trucks. Constructed in a wooden frame, the subsequent layers of snow have been put into place by students in an assembly line fashion. Next week, they will remove the frame and begin carving the snow.

Cartwright noted that the sculpture might shrink after the frame is removed, depending on the weather. 

The snow used for the sculpture has been brought onto the Green from the Dartmouth Skiway, given that there is not a reliable abundance of snow on the Green due to the unpredictability of the weather. 

Artistically inclined students worked on the execution of the design, engineers helped with the design and planning and groups like the DOC and sports teams provided much of the labor to build the sculpture, according to Cartwright.  

“It can unite all groups of campus,” he said. “It’s one of the few projects that anyone can get involved with.”

The snow sculpture will take on increased visibility this year compared to recent years, with the addition of a new “snow dome.” 

Historically, according to Cartwright, events such as the Winter Carnival opening ceremony were held outside in the shadow of the sculpture. However, over the years, many were moved indoors due to the weather. This year, many of these events will be moved back outdoors and held in what Winter Carnival Council co-chair Mychaela Anderson ’20 calls an “inflatable dome” on the Green. The dome, a tent-like structure which is slightly smaller than the size of Collis Common Ground, will be located next to the snow sculpture. 

The dome will allow events to take place outside while also offering some protection from the weather, noted David Pack, associate director of student involvement and an advisor to the Winter Carnival Council.

The dome will house the opening ceremony, which has been held in Collis in recent years. The dome will also host other events throughout the weekend, such as a silent disco event called the Snow Glow Disco, Anderson said.

This year’s Winter Carnival will see the continuation of well-known events such as the polar bear swim at Occom Pond as well as an ice sculpture contest and human dogsled races on the Green. Winter Carnival Council is also adding new events related to this year’s theme. One such event is the bigfoot races, which will be a competition for students to race each other wearing “big feet,” or snowshoes.

“It’s an event that has come and gone in years prior,” Winter Carnival Council co-chair Juan Miche Rosales ’20 said. “This year, because of Bigfoot and Sasquatch, we’re bringing it back and hopefully continuing it in the future.”

This year’s Winter Carnival will also bring several reflective events, which Anderson called “lighthearted academic engagement.” Related to the theme of unbelievable beasts, these events will focus on the personal and cultural influences of folklore across the globe. At the Winter Carnival Council’s event called “S’more Lore,” students and other community members are invited to share stories that are important to them. In keeping with the title, participants will make s’mores at bonfires on the Green.

The Winter Carnival Council is also putting on an “Ales and Tales” event on Monday, prior to the weekly Microbrews event in Collis. At this event, two professors will lead a discussion about folklore and why it is so prevalent in different cultures.

“It’s going to be a nice event to kick off the theme and Winter Carnival and add an educational factor to it,” Miche Rosales said.

While the Winter Carnival Council spearheads many of the iconic Winter Carnival events, other departments across campus create programming in conjunction with the theme. For example, Rauner Special Collections Library puts together an annual exhibit related to the theme; this year, it will focus on folklore. Additionally, this year, the Hop is showing the film “Frozen II” during the big weekend.

One iconic piece of Winter Carnival will be missing this year, however: the annual ski carnival at the Dartmouth Skiway. 

The Winter Carnival big weekend was historically “built to coincide” with the annual ski carnival, in which the College ski team competes against other universities at the Dartmouth Skiway, Pack said. However, due to a new scheduling system in the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association, the league in which the Dartmouth ski team competes, the College will not host a home race this season.