When Winter Carnival was King

We had no reason to know it (then), but Winter Carnival during our undergraduate years (and into the 1970’s) was in its heyday—not to be matched again in the recent past. Buying tickets to musical events, scrambling to arrange dates, constructing ice sculptures and organizing parties were all part of the most magical three-day blowout on the calendar.

It inspired the design of colorful silk screen posters for the occasion. Dartmouth, Middlebury, and other schools competed with the Williams teams organized by the Outing Club in four alpine events: jumping, downhill, slalom and cross-country.

The legendary Ralph Townsend, a member of the 1948 Nordic Team at the Olympics in St. Biarritz, was the coach. Dave Rikert won the Skimeister crown for several years running.

So what happened to this Williams tradition dating back to 1915?

Unbeknownst to some of us, the spectacular jumping competition was eliminated from the intercollegiate games in the late seventies, and the demise of the also exciting downhill occurred then as well. Dropping these signature events from the intercollegiate ski circuit removed much of the drama and excitement surrounding the weekend. Sadly, a Williams Record article in 2011 was entitled “Reviving Winter Carnival”. Enough said. For us, Winter Carnival affirmed our identity as Mountain Men, whether we were all decent skiers or not. Competing with students at other schools who came to our woodland wonderland to test their skills against ours only served to validate our good judgment in choosing a College where the temperature at night occasionally reached 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit in the wintertime.

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