Atypical Winter

One writer chronicles our less-than picturesque winter term.

by Grace Beilstein | 3/1/23 2:05am

by Samantha Brant / The Dartmouth

As snow flurries settled on my cheeks this weekend, this sudden burst of winter felt almost refreshing. Just days before, the piled-up snow on the Green had all but entirely melted, teasing at an early spring. As a significant downfall of snow sent many of us out to A Lot to shovel out our cars (happily even!), it’s worth thinking about how this winter’s unseasonable warmth has changed the experience of being in Hanover for the ceremonious kickoff of 2023. 

Brooke Nind ’26, who is from an hour outside of Los Angeles, reflected on all the “horror stories” she had heard about New Hampshire winters and mentioned feeling “a little bit relieved” until the recent snowfalls. 

At the same time, Nind said she was disappointed that there wasn’t more snow. 

“I had this vision of getting my New England winter life,” she lamented.

What is this New England winter life that we all love to hate? Right alongside all the typical winter-loving activities, like the cherished Dr.-Seuss-blitz-induced snowball fight and long Sundays at the Skiway, the dreary darkness of the season seems to loom over many students. As a Texan myself, I wanted to hear how this lukewarm winter came across to students that live for the season and its unique sports.

Gretchen Carpenter ’23, co-president of the Winter Sports Club, shared that the club was not able to run its usual trips to Braintree, Cardigan, Moosilauke and other mountains because of winter rainstorms and generally un-wintry conditions. 

Since she was raised in Colorado, Carpenter grew up deeply immersed in winter sports activities, especially winter snowshoeing and cross country skiing with her family on weekends. As we talked, Carpenter’s eyes lit up describing the kinds of lessons she said were best learned through winter sports. 

She reflected on her parents “show[ing] her how much better life is, no matter the conditions, when you’re with others.” 

This winter, we Hanover residents have had to embrace some of this mentality, by squeezing in a fun random Thursday of tubing on the golf course or skating for the precious few days Occom was open.

As a freshman myself, the limited-time-only style of these activities has almost added to the fun — you have to seize the moment when winter wants you to! But for ’23s in their last winter, the sparse moments of frozen joy may definitely seem more bittersweet. 

Even among non-’23s, winter sports enthusiasts have very mixed feelings about a winter primarily confined to the Dartmouth Skiway, where staff are able to blow and groom just enough snow to keep the runs passable. 

The other Winter Sports Club co-president, Maia Crichlow ’25, said that  backcountry skiing is “what brings us all together.” As some students experience through fall activities like First-Year Trips and other DOC-sponsored outings, backcountry excursions have their own kind of outdoorsy intimacy to them. 

Eating bell peppers and portable hummus stuffed into a day pack; sharing moments of warmth inside Robo at the end of a long day. Perhaps such an un-wintry winter loses some of its coziness?

My conversations with the Winter Sports Club co-presidents reflected the reality that all of us, whether buried deep in the Stacks for three months or braving the muddy backcountry, can have a complex relationship with the season. Our backgrounds, our preferences and all the other complications of life can make the chilly season chock full of emotions, good or bad. 

Carpenter mentioned that, considering COVID-19 restrictions, she intentionally decided to take her sophomore winter off, concerned that pandemic-related isolation combined with winter darkness would not be a positive experience. But Carpenter beamed as she recounted her favorite social ski moments of the following winter, including the pond skim, Killington corn harvest and skiing Tuckerman Ravine. 

As week nine descends upon us, these hours of oh-so-late snow are a reminder that every moment is fleeting. Even through finals season and the pre-spring break excitement, hopefully all of us will find some time to appreciate winter for what it offers. For its soft flurries on eyelashes, its at-times-gloomy darkness, its Super Puff and mittens weather, we’ll miss it, at least a little.