The college held the annual Winter Carnival last weekend, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the tradition. Students participated in typical Carnival activities like ice sculpture carving and the Winter Carnival Ball.
Though ski races at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl have long been a popular feature of Winter Carnival, with many students turning out to watch, the tradition was notably absent from this year’s celebration schedule. The Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) changed its rules in recent years to allow all participating schools an equal opportunity to host ski races. While Middlebury, Dartmouth, and UVM previously hosted a race every year, now all schools will host races three out of every four years.
“There are more colleges that race in the carnival ski racing series than there are actual races, so in an effort to share races, Middlebury is not hosting a race this year,” said Sean Gryzb, director of the college’s Ski Patrol.
The Winter Carnival, according to the college’s Annual Campus Events webpage, began in 1923 and remains the oldest student-run carnival in the country. However, in 1920, students organized a similar event called the “Winter Holiday” which calls into question whether or not Middlebury should have celebrated the centennial in 2020. But whether this year really is the 100th anniversary or the 103rd, Winter Carnival has continued to offer a slate of student-run festivities spread over the course of three days in February, ringing in the start of the spring semester.
When the carnival began in 1923, it was a modest celebration, but it has become one of the most anticipated events of the year — a way to bring much of the school community together in winter activities. Many first-years were excited for the events, not having experienced the Winter Carnival before.
“I’m from the South, so I have never been part of any winter-esque activities, so seeing it unfold for the first time at Middlebury with the Carnival is great! It’s also fun to be here for the 100th anniversary, which is a big deal,” Diana Lobo ’26 said.
The Middlebury Mountain Club founded the Winter Carnival and for many years led the charge in organizing events, but in more recent years, the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) has run many of the Carnival events.
“MCAB was very excited to host the 100th Annual Winter Carnival this year,” said Maxine Sarrosa ’25, president of MCAB. “We are bringing back old traditions from before Covid-19, and we just hope everyone had an amazing time at all of these events. We have been working very hard for several weeks now on the event, and we just hope everyone enjoyed it!”
This year, MCAB’s Winter Carnival lineup included a bonfire with fireworks, ice carving, the Valentine’s Day Ball and an ice show performance hosted by the Middlebury College Figure Skating Club.
The traditional Winter Carnival fireworks show was held on the Ross Lawn on Friday night. Though the bonfire and smores that were originally planned for the event were canceled due to weather, there was still a large turnout for the show.
“The fireworks were amazing. There were a lot of people in front of Ross, Battell Beach and even Proc recording the show. It was nice to see the campus come together,” Lisandra Tusen ’26 said.
Saturday, however, was the biggest day for the Carnival. Around noon, MCAB hosted an ice sculpting event. Students had the chance to test out their carving skills on a set of massive blocks of ice lined up on Proctor Terrace.
Both on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, the figure skating club hosted their “Midd Century Ice Show,” which brought together skaters of all ages, including those from the local Middlebury community.
Performers included members of the college figure skating club, first time skaters from the J-Term ice skating workshop, kids from the town of Middlebury, and special guests — including the University of Vermont Synchronized Team and U.S. National Figure Skating Championship competitors Sydney Cooke and Matthew Kennedy. The show took audience members on a trip back in time through performances spanning from 1920s jazz music, 70s disco bops and an incredible 90s boy band throwback.
The much anticipated Valentine’s Day Ball also occurred on Saturday night. According to MCAB, over 600 tickets were sold. The ball itself had a multi-year hiatus due to the pandemic — only students who matriculated in spring 2020 or earlier were on campus for the last one.
The ball was Valentine’s Day themed, and featured an array of hors d’oeuvres from spinach samosas to pretzel bites, and a mocktail bar which provided guests with free Shirley temples, peach drinks, and liquid death sparkling waters. There were also life sized chess boards and touch screen photo booths.
Despite excitement about this year’s events, some students expressed disappointment about Middlebury not hosting their own ski races this year, something that has been a tradition at the college in past years.
Last year, the ski races at the Snow Bowl returned for the first time since the pandemic and had one of its largest turnouts yet, in which students from other schools in the Eastern Intercollegiate Skiing Association competed in different races with a crowd of spectators cheering from the bottom of the mountain.
Ryan Heinzerling ’24, a member of the Middlebury Ski Patrol, was disappointed in this year's lack of the ski races.
“We’re a college ski hill; we should be hosting a college carnival,” Heinzerling said. “We know how to run these things extremely well, and people love coming to the Bowl because of that, so I'd say it's a disappointment, especially on the hundredth anniversary.”
Heinzerling also noted that many upperclassmen on Patrol will not have another opportunity to work the Carnival ski races before they graduate.
“Patrol is super bummed, especially the seniors and senior Febs who had their last ‘real’ carnival last year. Obviously there’s still fun events on campus, but we like to equate it to our homecoming game because it's the only day during the season where all 32 of us suit up on the same day,” Heinzerling said.
Many other upperclassmen felt a big difference between this year’s Carnival and those of previous years, even though many traditions have remained.
“I remember the Winter Carnival being a bigger deal when I was a first-year,” Katie Wilmore ’23 said. “Maybe it just made more of an impression because it was my first one, but I think there were more events like dogsledding, food trucks and ski races. I spent all of Saturday doing carnival activities that year, while this year the only event I attended was the Ball — which was super fun!”