A Look Back: Images of Winter Carnivals Past

The 109th Winter Carnival kicks off Thursday, Feb. 7, with the theme of “Ice Age: 250 Years of Winter,” a nod to the College’s celebration of its 250th anniversary year.

The Dartmouth Winter Carnival has offered students the chance to embrace New Hampshire’s frosty weather with gritty merriment for more than a century. This year’s carnival, the 109th, kicks off Thursday, Feb. 7, with the theme of “Ice Age: 250 Years of Winter,” a nod to the College’s celebration of its 250th anniversary year.


Dartmouth Winter Carnival Photo Galleries

The tradition owes its start to Fred Harris, Class of 1910, who was disappointed by classmates spending the winter months holed up in their dorm rooms. An avid skier who was eager for company, Harris founded the Dartmouth Outing Club in Dec. 1909 to encourage students to “get out.”

In February 1910, the club hosted a Winter Field Day for students to showcase the winter sports skills they honed over the previous weeks. Motivated by the positive reception, the club hosted the first Dartmouth Winter Carnival the following winter.

Enthusiasm for the carnival grew rapidly, as did the visiting crowds, thanks largely to the addition of several social events and the inclusion of women as guests. Popular highlights added over the years included the Queen of the Snows pageant, a snow sculpture contest, the Winter Carnival Ball, and the Outdoor Evenings variety show.

Many of these traditions, as well as some of the weekend’s more perilous sporting pursuits—such as the toboggan run and skijoring—are a distant memory. While much has changed over the Winter Carnival’s lengthy run, certain constants remain.

There is still the top-ranked ski team to root for in intercollegiate competition. The greater Hanover community is invited to join Dartmouth students on Occom Pond for the annual Pond Party on Feb. 10. Musical groups—the Dartmouth Cords, the Dartmouth Subtleties, and Sugarplum—will entertain their classmates with song Saturday night, Feb. 9, in Spaulding Auditorium, just as the College’s music clubs did in Webster Hall in the 1930s. Students will embrace the cold and the spirit of friendly competition by participating in the carnival’s modern-day dares—the polar bear swim and the human dogsled races.

At its heart, Winter Carnival represents the collaborative effort of students to “get out” and join in the fun and adventure, even in the chilliest of temperatures.

Do you have a favorite Winter Carnival memory? Share it on social media with the hashtag #Dartmouth250 or email it to us at [email protected]

Dartmouth Winter Carnival Photo Galleries