‘There’s something to do for everyone’: Students celebrate 113th Winter Carnival
Traditional events, which included the Polar Bear Swim and ice sculpture carving contest, drew participation from students of all class years.
From Thursday, Feb. 9 to Sunday, Feb. 12, the College celebrated its 113th Winter Carnival, this year with the theme “Winter CAAARRRnival: Shiver Me Timbers!” Students participated in traditional activities starting with an opening celebration on Thursday that featured performances by a cappella groups The Cords, The Decibelles, The Sings and The Brovertones, as well as dance groups Fusion and Ujima.
Despite warmer temperatures, the Polar Bear Swim — a tradition in which students swim across a short stretch of ice water in an otherwise frozen Occom Pond — drew participants from all class years.
Molly Knox ’23 said that the Polar Bear Swim was canceled during her first two years at Dartmouth — in 2020 because it was not cold enough and in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and that she was unable to participate last winter because she had taken an off-term. According to Knox, there were other seniors who had waited until their senior year to complete the swim.
“I feel like it was such a capstone thing,” Knox said. “We’ve been wanting to do it for a while, but we knew we only wanted to do it once.”
Paridhi Kapadia ’23 added that despite the cold, she felt that the swim was an integral part of experiencing Winter Carnival.
“It’s cold, but then you come out and you’re like, ‘Woah, I have a new take on life,’” Kapadia said. “You can’t leave [Dartmouth] without doing [the swim].”
Students of other class years, including Mikaela Browning ’26, were also enthusiastic about participating in the swim.
“This is what I was looking forward to the most, and it was worth it,” Browning said. “I loved it — my feet were numb, but I loved it.”
The ice sculpture contest, in which 16 teams competed for a $200 cash prize, was held last Friday and Saturday on the lawns of the Collis Center, Robinson Hall, McNutt Hall and Parkhurst Hall, according to the Winter Carnival website.
According to Won Jang ’26, the contest was judged in three categories: the popular vote, the Winter Carnival committee vote and a vote by professional ice sculptor Murray Long. Jang — who said his team’s sculpture of a pirate-themed Snoopy won the popular vote category — said he enjoyed the sculpting process.
“I was really intimidated at the beginning … but it’s actually way easier and more accessible and just a fun time with friends,” Jang said.
Wesley Icken ’26, another member of Jang’s ice sculpture group, added that he appreciated the support given to participants who were learning how to make the ice sculptures.
“The staff that were in charge of it were really helpful,” Icken said. “Our group came up with a design we wanted to do and we sent them a picture and they went to our block and created an outline for us. We kind of joked that they did most of the work — we did the carving, but they did the outline.”
Lauren Heller ’26 said that the messaging she received about Winter Carnival when she first arrived at Dartmouth shaped her expectations and anticipation for this weekend.
“I think it was really cool that during [Orientation Week] we saw Winter Carnival posters being handed out,” Heller said. “It was nice for [Winter Carnival] to finally happen and see what it is like because everyone’s always talking about [it].”
Other events from this weekend included human dog sled races, snowshoe races and the annual Phi Delta Alpha fraternity chili cookoff. Ski lift tickets at the Dartmouth Skiway were also free for undergraduate students on Thursday and Sunday.
Given the variety of activities, Ellie Alloway ’26 said she liked that Winter Carnival offers something for everyone.
“I really like the inclusivity of [Winter Carnival] because everyone can do something, whether you want to do the dogsled or snowshoe races, look at the ice sculptures or go out to a party,” Alloway said. “There’s something to do for everyone.”
Knox added that her perception of Winter Carnival has evolved throughout her time at Dartmouth.
“I feel like Winter Carnival has gotten bigger since [the Class of 2023 has] been here,” Knox said. “Our freshman year, nobody knew it was Winter Carnival except for the fact there was that giant [snow] sculpture [on the Green] and some other smaller events … this feels much more like a big weekend.”
Correction appended (March 14, 10:40 a.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the professional ice sculptor who helped to judge the ice sculpture contest. The sculptor was Murray Long. The article has been updated.