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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Winter Carnival returns to Middlebury with ski races, ice sculpture contest and more

Participants in the ice sculpture competition on Friday of carnival weekend carve a fish design out of the ice block.
Participants in the ice sculpture competition on Friday of carnival weekend carve a fish design out of the ice block.

The annual Winter Carnival returned to campus at full capacity last weekend, following a brief ski race hiatus last year. The weekend included Middlebury Carnival ski races as well as on-campus activities organized by Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) such as an ice-sculpting competition outside of Proctor Dining Hall, s’more-making on Battell Beach and a formal masquerade-themed ball held in the Virtue Field House on Saturday night. 

Hundreds of students made their way to the Rikert Outdoor Center and the Snow Bowl on Saturday, Feb. 24 to spend time with peers and watch Middlebury’s alpine and nordic ski teams race against 13 other schools in the Middlebury Carnival, which was also the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association Championship carnival. As is tradition, students dressed in neon and retro ski apparel and crowded the base of the slopes or climbed up to spectate. With the combined scores of the alpine and nordic teams, Middlebury finished third overall in the carnival, as the University of Vermont took first place.

Middlebury Ski Patrol member Sofia Bobroff ’26 worked at the Snow Bowl on Saturday and said the day went well overall. “It was so great to see so many people show up for the ski team,” Bobroff wrote in a message to The Campus. 

In addition to the races going well and the high energy from the crowd, Bobroff noted that Ski Patrol also had a successful day.

“Patrol’s operations went really smoothly, we responded to some accidents which was as expected. At times it was difficult to manage the crowd, but all things considered I think we had a pretty successful day,” Bobroff wrote.

The Snow Bowl serves alcohol at the event, and in past years, the college has run buses between campus and both Rikert and the Snow Bowl to give students who choose to consume alcohol an easy, safe way to travel to the carnival. This year, no transportation beyond the Tri Valley Transit buses was offered from campus. Buses did run between the overflow parking lot at Rikert and the Snow Bowl, but students were largely responsible for their own transportation between campus and Rikert.

“I know a lot of students were concerned about drunk driving, and I think it’s a good idea to bring back the buses in the future,” Bobroff told The Campus. 

Makayla Reed ’26 and Erik Budo Uerkwitz ’26, two of the executive board members of MCAB, spoke with The Campus about the planning process and organization that went into the weekend’s itinerary. According to Reed, the club met weekly during J-Term to  brainstorm event ideas.

“We started by just throwing out ideas and seeing what we thought would be cool,” Reed said. She noted that multiple features of the weekend, such as the chocolate fountain, 360-degree video camera and mechanical bull featured at the Masquerade Ball, were originally casual propositions from members of the general board.

The most challenging part of the planning process for Reed and Budo Uerkwitz involved securing contracts and searching for optimal pricing. According to Budo Uerkwitz, all events were paid for using funding from the MCAB budget.

Although some activities such as the Masquerade Ball are rooted in tradition, an expansive budget has allowed for additional activities in recent years, according to members of MCAB’s executive board.

 “There wasn’t a cash prize last year,” said Budo Uerkwitz, referring to the ice-sculpting competition where groups of four and five students chipped away at huge blocks of ice.

Budo Uerkwitz and Reed stated that the ice-sculpting competition last year was not very popular. This year, however, student interest in a community competition surged following the announcement that there would be a $500 cash prize for the best sculpture, which was decided by student votes. 

Olivia Reposa ’24 was a member of the team that won the ice sculpture competition. Reposa, along with 10 friends, sculpted a toilet out of ice. She cited Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” as the inspiration for the team’s ice sculpture.

“Half the fun of the experience was being there with friends,” Reposa wrote in a message to The Campus. “Given our many potentially more talented competitions we were truly honored that people were willing to vote for us.” 

Budo Uerkwitz supervises MCAB’s finances. He emphasized the fact that the college’s generosity allows him to accept most of the proposals brought forth by club members.

“When someone has a great idea, I’m like, ‘yeah, just go for it,’” 

“[Winter Carnival]’s something where the whole campus really comes together and you get to meet people you haven’t before, and all your friends are there. And Middlebury needs things that create a larger sense of community. Especially in a small village, these events are absolutely essential,” said Clay Rosser ’26, a member of the MCAB board and Winter Carnival attendee.

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Deven Sud ’26 also spoke with The Campus about his experience at Winter Carnival. Despite his praise for the actual events, Sud noted that the advertising beforehand could have been better. Multiple activities had piqued Sud’s interest, but when he went to sign up, the window to sign up had already passed.

Sud lamented his missed chance to participate in the ice sculpture competition. He praised MCAB for their creativity in the tournament’s establishment and for their success in using the cash prize to increase general interest in the events. 

“I think it’s good for a sense of class unity,” Sud added.

On Saturday morning, hundreds of students gathered at the Snowbowl to cheer on their classmates, and, later that evening, many more gathered in the tennis courts of the Virtue Field House to dance, snack and ride the mechanical bull at the Masquerade Ball. Sud and Rosser both commented that overall, upon reflection, they believed the weekend to have been a success.

Editors’ note: Senior News Editor Susanna Schatz ’24 contributed reporting.