112th Winter Carnival to take place this weekend

The weekend will bring familiar favorites — such as the polar bear plunge and snow sculptures — alongside James Bond-themed events, including a casino night and laser tag.

by Carly Retterer | 2/10/22 5:10am

by Beam Lertbunnaphongs / The Dartmouth

Tonight, opening celebrations at Collis patio will kick off Dartmouth’s 112th Annual Winter Carnival, and despite obstacles surrounding unusually warm weather, traditions like the “polar bear plunge” and snow sculpture are slated to continue as planned. This year’s theme, “Mission: Winter Carnival — License to Chill,” combines traditions loved by Dartmouth students and new James Bond-themed events.

The polar bear plunge — an annual Winter Carnival tradition where students take a frigid dip in Occom pond — will take place this year, Winter Carnival council chair Chris Cartwright ’21 said. Despite the warmer weather in the past week, Cartwright said that “it’s been cold enough for such a long duration” that the plunge can still be held. 

Since students have been unable to experience the plunge for the last three years due to a combination of the pandemic, warm temperatures and poor weather conditions, Cartwright said he is expecting this event to have the “highest turnout” of the weekend’s events. The plunge will take place this Friday afternoon from two to 4:30 p.m. at Occom Pond. 

The recent warmer weather has also made it challenging for the completion of the snow sculpture on the Green, which snow sculpture chair Cady Rancourt ’24 explained as a now 95-year-old tradition “where students come together and build a giant snow sculpture out of snow that is with the theme of Winter Carnival.” 

This year, however, Rancourt said the sculpture has run into issues due to the warm weather and a lack of student volunteers. Due to the warmer weather, some of the collected snow for the sculpture has become “crusted ice” from the process of melting and refreezing, she explained.

“It’ll make carving a little bit of a trickier process than we wanted,” Rancourt said. “But we’ve got the tools, and we’ll work our way around it.”  

In addition to the challenges associated with the warm weather, Rancourt said they “could not get people to come out” to help with assembling the framework for the snow sculpture. 

“We anticipated a 20-foot sculpture and just could not get the people out on the work days in order to fill the box that high,” Rancourt said. “So now our sculpture is going to be between seven and eight feet tall, because that’s all we could realistically manage with the people that we have.” 

Despite the difficulty in realizing the initial ambitions for the snow sculpture, Rancourt said she is still “really excited” and “proud of the people on campus that came together to make it happen.” 

“I’ve got a few incredible team members and we are just going to give it our all [to] do whatever we can to produce something really interesting for the campus and the surrounding community,” Rancourt said.  

“It’s a beautiful vibe out on the Green. You got the Baker Library right there, got friends, got the snow on the ground. Can’t get much better than that.”

Lillian Johnson ’23 said she is curious to see what the snow sculpture will look like because she “can not figure out what you do for a spy theme,” adding that she was a fan of the “sea serpent” snow sculpture from Winter Carnival 2020. Johnson said she also “really likes” the Winter Carnival T-shirts. 

“I’m very fond of the shirts,” Johnson said. “I’ve gotten one each year that I’ve been on in the winter, so I’m going to get another one this year, and then my senior year [I’ll have] all four of them.” 

The warm weather has interfered with the annual Occom Pond Party, an event hosted by the Hanover Parks and Recreation department as a “family-friendly alternative” to the Winter Carnival. According to the Valley News, the party — which includes ice skating, ice sculptures, a snow castle and sleigh rides — has been canceled “indefinitely” due to unreliable weather conditions. 

According to the Winter Carnival website, there will also be an ice sculpture contest in front of Robinson Hall throughout the weekend; voting for the best sculpture will take place at 4 p.m. on Saturday and awards will be announced at 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon events will include “human dog sled races” and snowshoe races on the Green. 

Ice skating will be open throughout the weekend on the Green as well, according to the Winter Carnival website. 

Ben Jenkins ’25 said he is “stoked” for the weekend’s events, and ice skating with his friends in particular. He added that he is planning to participate in his first polar bear plunge and is looking forward to going to the skiway this weekend.

“It’s a beautiful vibe out on the Green,” Jenkins said. “You got the Baker Library right there, got friends, got the snow on the ground. Can’t get much better than that.”

There will also be a variety of Dartmouth sports events to attend this weekend, according to the Winter Carnival website. The alpine and Nordic ski teams will compete both Friday and Saturday mornings, and students will be able to watch the alpine ski team compete at the Dartmouth Skiway and the Nordic team at Oak Hill. The women’s and men’s hockey teams will also both be competing this weekend in Thompson Arena.

According to the Winter Carnival website, the Winter Carnival council and Collis After Dark have organized multiple “spy-themed” activities for the weekend. Collis after Dark will host a “Casino Royale” themed casino night at Collis on Friday night at 9 p.m., as well as a spy games-themed night on Saturday with laser tag. 

“Friday’s gonna be a big day,” Cartwright said, adding that his friends — seniors who have already experienced Winter Carnival — are still looking forward to casino night and playing games like blackjack. 

The Winter Carnival council has also organized an ongoing scavenger hunt that will take place throughout the weekend, according to the Winter Carnival website. Students can work in a group or by themselves and complete a set of challenges like “decoding certain riddles” and a “morse code challenge,” Cartwright said. 

“All the events are on, so I’m excited for the weekend,” Cartwright added. “Despite all the difficulties there — it’s been a bumpy road — it’s shaping up to be a good weekend.” 

Advertise your student group in The Dartmouth for free!