A Chance to 'Level Up' at a Hybrid Winter Carnival

This year's gaming-themed carnival offers virtual and in-person events, Feb. 5-21.

How does Dartmouth celebrate its 111th winter carnival in a pandemic year? With creativity, technology, and an embrace of all things winter.

As its theme—Level Up: Carnival Rebooted—suggests, this year's carnival is organized around gaming, with virtual, in-person, and hybrid programming for community members near and far. And instead of a long weekend, the extended schedule will run more than two weeks—encompassing three full weekends—from Feb. 5-21.

"Our hope is to bring the Dartmouth community some joy and connection in a really challenging time," says David Pack, associate director for student involvement at the Collis Center for Student Involvement. Pack works closely with the Winter Carnival Council, the ad hoc student organization that plans and organizes carnival.

In addition to a variety of traditional on-campus activities (adapted for COVID-19 safety), such as human dogsled races, ice and snow sculptures, and free lift tickets at the Skiway, organizers plan to feature opportunities to play games of all kinds, from arcade nights and multiplayer online video games to scavenger hunts around campus. New carnival-sponsored events will be posted throughout carnival on the Engage.Dartmouth.edu website.

"We want to make sure that carnival is an opportunity that everyone can participate in, on campus and off," says Colton Wagner '21, chair of the Winter Carnival Council.

Wagner, a double major in economics and quantitative social science from Bellevue, Wash., and a member of the School House residential community, says continuing the carnival tradition is especially important in a year when so much of student life has been disrupted by the pandemic. While he is currently living on campus, approximately half of the undergraduate student body is enrolled remotely.

Several in-person events—including the ice sculpture contest—will be offered more than once to safely accommodate as many participants as possible while adhering to physical-distancing guidelines. Instead of one large snow sculpture, students are invited to help build three smaller sculptures on the Green.

And while in-person events are open only to students, staff, and faculty who are approved to be on campus and are taking part in the COVID-19 testing program, organizers say there will be opportunities for alumni engagement in several of the virtual offerings.

"We're hoping that the theme appeals to all generations and people with all types of experience," Wagner says.

Alex Yusen '21, an economics major from Scarsdale, N.Y., and co-leader of the Computer Gaming Association and the Super Smash Bros. Club, volunteered for the carnival council when he heard about this year's gaming theme.

"I was very excited. With the nature of technology and how video games work to bring people together, I thought that I could work with the other members on the council to put on some really great events," says Yusen, a member of West House who is enrolled remotely this term. 

"We're working on setting up different video game stations and panels and informational sessions across campus so people can learn more about the virtual gaming space and all of our alumni connections there," Yusen says. "We're working on offering info sessions for different communities of gamers, including marginalized communities. That's very important to us. We want everyone to feel that they can be a part of this."

Here are some highlights of the carnival schedule (more events will be added throughout the next two weeks, so be sure to check Engage.Dartmouth.edu and the winter carnival website for dates, times, and the latest listings):

  • Carnival kickoff on the Collis patio and the Green, 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5
  • Collis After Dark arcade night, featuring vintage and contemporary video games in Collis Common Ground, 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, and Sunday, Feb. 6
  • Dogsled duo and snowshoe races on the Green, 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6 and Feb. 13
  • A virtual conversation with comedian Nick Kroll, 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19

Ongoing events will include

  • Snow and ice sculpture building and skating on the Green
  • Free Skiway lift tickets (subject to capacity limits)
  • A "winter wonderland" on the golf course
  • A scavenger hunt for arcade tickets around campus
  • Free film screenings
  • various gaming opportunities via a winter carnival Discord server

Hannah Silverstein can be reached at hannah.silverstein@dartmouth.edu