Winter Carnival to Have Spy Theme

News subtitle

‘License to Chill’ includes casino night and the return of the polar bear swim.

Back of Winter Carnival T-shirt with logo design.
The back of this year’s winter carnival T-shirt plays off the “License to Chill” spy theme.

Gather your gadgets and suit up for an action-packed winter carnival—the 112th edition of Dartmouth’s annual celebration of the season won’t be short on thrills. The spy-themed “Mission: Winter Carnival—License to Chill” starts Thursday, Feb. 10, and runs through Sunday.

“Many of us have grown up loving spy fiction, so I think this year’s theme is going to bring a different level of excitement,” says Lucas Gatterman ’23, one of three chairs of the Winter Carnival Council, the student organization behind the events.

The poster for Winter Carnival.
The poster for winter carnival, which starts Thursday.

The hat-tip to the shadowy world of spies offers a lot to draw from and have fun with, says David Pack, director of student involvement at the Collis Center for Student Involvement, who works closely with the Winter Carnival Council. In addition to the usual roster of events such as the ice sculpture contest, human dogsled races, and snowshoe races, several theme-based events are being planned. There will be a casino night, laser tag and some other spy games.

Students who are quarantining or people who are uncomfortable about participating in indoor events will have a chance to tune in through some virtual events. For example, concert organizers are working to secure artist permissions to livestream their events.

And with most events being outdoors, there are many ways to engage safely, Pack adds.

Continuing the winter carnival tradition virtually last year was a worthy effort, says Gatterman. “But there was just something missing,” he adds, “and I think it was that human element of people really coming together to enjoy the weekend together.”

One of the most eagerly awaited events is the polar bear swim, which was last held in 2019. Among the students on campus, only the ’22s have had an opportunity to participate in that tradition at Occom Pond, says Gatterman, who oversees the event. In anticipation of a large turnout, the council is looking into an extended timeframe for the swim, which traditionally happens on Friday afternoon.

“I’d like to think I’ll do the polar plunge this year,” says Cady Rancourt ’24. This is her first winter on campus and she is eager to skate on Occom Pond and the Green. “I’m super-excited to get outside and to spend time with friends doing something different,” says Rancourt, who is leading the team erecting the snow sculpture on the Green.

The framework is up, and carving is underway, but what shape it will take is top secret. “It has to follow the theme, and I think we did a pretty good job this year,” is all Rancourt will divulge.

The schedule will be available through the winter carnival website, with additional details on Some of the highlights include:

  • Opening kickoff on Collis Patio at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 10.
  • Polar bear swim at Occom Pond from 2 to 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 11.
  • Casino night at Collis Center from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 11.
  • Ice sculpture contest on the Collis/Robo/McNutt lawns starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12.
Harini Barath