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The Dartmouth
March 2, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

‘I Really Expected it to be Bigger’: Winter Carnival Expectations vs Reality

Students share what they did and did not do during this not-so-big weekend.


All around campus, students clamored about the highly anticipated polar plunge. The weather was supposed to be unusually warm, participation was expected to be high and the water, of course, was extremely cold. 

When I finally got to the front of the line, ready to jump into the water, I decided I wanted to get as far across the distance as possible. As I heard the volunteers yell to jump feet first, I launched from the platform and broad jumped as far as I could and completely belly flopped. I surfaced, swam to the ladder to exit and laughed. It was terribly cold, yet I was so happy to have successfully completed my first polar plunge. 

Ava Scharfstein ’24 also made the plunge into Occom Pond on Friday afternoon. 

“I was really looking forward to the polar plunge; I think it’s very uniquely Dartmouth,” Scharfstein said. “Given the fact that you can skate on Occom, but then you can also do the plunge, is kinda cool.”

Ben Jenkins ’25 was similarly excited for the plunge. When talking about the endeavor, Jenkins felt particularly prepared as someone who is interested in “cold exposure,” noting figures like Wim Hof, a Dutch motivational speaker known for his ability to withstand low temperatures. 

“Wim Hof, testing your boundaries, pushing your human limit — I love that, I’m so into that,” Jenkins said.  

Cady Rancourt ’24, who helped organize the Winter Carnival snow sculpture on the Green, was not able to plunge into Occom, but enjoyed watching the student excitement and participation at the event. 

“It was so cool to see how many students it attracted and to see that many people in line, and that many people wanting to jump in the ice cold water, and people walking back in towels and wet hair” Rancourt said. 

Aside from the polar plunge, the Class of 2024 and Class of 2025 found themselves both excited and unsure of what to expect of the Winter Carnival. 

“I mean, as a ’24, this is my first winter here, so I probably had the same expectations as many of the ’25s where it’s like ‘I don’t know, I’ve never been here. I’ve never done this before,’” Rancourt said. 

Like Rancourt, Jenkins said that he was “stoked” for the Carnival and that he had been “hearing about it since [he] got here,” but did not know much about the events of the weekend. 

Despite uncertainty surrounding what exactly happens during Winter Carnival, Scharfstein was “very excited” to take part in classic Dartmouth traditions.

“I had heard a lot about all of the traditions from upperclassmen,” Scharfstein said. “I think it’s the culminating event of the winter term.”

Unfortunately, not all Winter Carnival expectations were met. Following the events of the weekend, Rancourt found herself reflecting that she expected more students to be involved in Winter Carnival events. 

“Winter Carnival is supposed to be this huge tradition,” Rancourt said. “I really expected it to be bigger.” 

However, Rancourt also recognized that student involvement is hard to expect given the demanding academics at Dartmouth.

“I love the whole idea of Dartmouth traditions, I really do, but I understand why it’s hard to get students involved,” Rancourt said. “Students are stretched so thin, it’s hard to be involved in anything. The sculpture was basically the only thing I was involved in this term, and it was almost too much. And I want to do my best to make it more accessible to students and to make students more excited about it next year.” 

Scharfstein shared similar sentiments, noting that classwork kept her from fully immersing herself in all the winter activities. 

“I don’t think I fully embraced all that the winter kind of had to offer just because I also have a lot going on with schoolwork and just being drained from just everything that is the ten week term of Dartmouth,” Scharfstein said. “One thing I wanted to do that I didn’t was go skiing. I wish I took advantage of that.”