Slipping, Tripping and Winter Term Living
One writer chronicles the ubiquitous experience of icy, snowy falls on campus.
It’s winter, which means it’s cold, it’s icy and it’s hard to stay vertical when walking. Although I haven’t had a viscerally embarrassing fall yet, I just know one is coming — they happen to everyone.
It is a shared Dartmouth experience: eating it in front of a group of people, who, while strangers, might otherwise think you are cool. And then, splat — any illusion of coolness disappears as quickly as your balance.
This week I talked to students who were willing to share their stories of falling and their humor and good-natured honesty made me feel better about my own close calls.
For Kristi Conner ’26, the culprit was a classic bit of nighttime black ice.
“I was walking back to my dorm, and I stepped on a slippery patch of ice. I was in snow boots, but my feet came out from under me and I hit the ground,” she said. “I was with three other friends — they all laughed at me. I was absolutely mortified.”
Conner was laughing while she recounted her story, and her ability to think back on it and giggle felt like a good sign.
There is black ice everywhere on campus, and most of the time you can’t even see the slick patches that lie in wait as you’re approaching them. Thankfully, Conner’s story ended cheerfully.
“After laying there for a few minutes, I laughed it off and finished my walk home,” she said.
Much of our time at Dartmouth is spent in some variation of winter weather, and for many students, a decent amount of that time involves socializing. It follows, then, that there is a lot falling while going out. It’s normal — don’t sweat it.
I would be depriving you of reality if I didn’t add a story that had to do with falling at a fraternity. People fall waiting outside of frats, people fall inside of frats, people fall walking to and from frats. Recently, I saw someone eat the ground twice in five minutes while dancing in a frat.
One night not long ago, a friend was letting Miel Wewerka ’26 and a group of her friends into a house through the side door. Wewerka said that she was told to “haul your butts over here right now,” which is when her journey began to spiral out of control.
“In the process of doing so, we had to go down some stairs and around a turn, and all of us cartoon fell in line down the stairs, slipping on the ice,” Wewerka said.
But the perilous journey to the fraternity door wasn’t over.
“I rounded a corner and spun out, and my friend caught me mid air,” she said. “We both fell. In an attempt to sprint into the door, I slid out again and fell on my knees again, and I crawled through the door.”
Clearly, it can be a disaster trying to get into a party, but the story ended well for Wewerka and her friends — they eventually made it inside, despite picking up a few bruises along the way.
Unfortunately, sometimes falling stories don’t end up with a mostly-intact arrival. For Cindy Wang ’24, a recent ice skating slip ended in a trip to the emergency room.
Although Wang said that the ice skating itself went smoothly, the most dangerous part was after her skates came off.
“We were taking off our skates at the benches by Occom, and then you have to walk across a bit of the ice to get up the stairs,” Wang said. “While we were walking, I slipped and smacked my head backwards, and I had to go to the E.R.”
It is shockingly common for students to seriously injure themselves in winter falls, and something tells me that Wang isn’t alone in her bad luck. Slippery stairs are the worst — almost level with black ice in their evilness. When we see someone fall on the stairs it’s easy to laugh, but I think we also simultaneously recognize that we have all been there before.
From brochures to Instagram posts to the constant daily journeys of each student, the Green — and its criss-crossing paths — is ubiquitous. When it’s icy, it becomes a serious liability.
Riley Wissler ’26 divulged one recent moment when the central Dartmouth stomping ground got the better of him.
“Here I am, walking to late-night, about to get my grub on,” Wissler said. “Then I put my foot on the gravel path of the Green, my foot leaves the ground and my back hits the ground.”
You may be thinking, “I’ve done that,” or at least, “I’ve seen that in a cartoon.” The laughable tragedy of his mid-Green stumble wasn’t lost on Wissler.
“I felt like I slipped on a banana like in a cartoon, and everyone laughed,” he said. “My pants were wet, my coat was wet and I was sad. But I lived.”
Exactly. Wissler lived, and we all will live through the moments that embarrass us — even when they sting.
Plus, the group of strangers who you were trying to impress from a distance before they saw you smack the pavement might still think you’re cool. And if they don’t, you will live. Maybe, like Mewerka, a friend will catch you when you fall — only for you to go down together. At the end of the day, we will get back to our dorms, into the frats, up the stairs of Occom and across the Green. We will fall, and we will live. It’s just the way of Hanover winter.
This article was updated Feb. 17, 2023 at 5:11 p.m.