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Middlebury’s Winter Carnival has been under the separate supervision of the Outing Club, Mountain Club, and Carnival Committee throughout its history, but the Mountain Club played the largest role in making the Winter Carnival so successful and popular.  Also, even though each organization had the general responsibility of managing Winter Carnival during its time as the main contributor, there were several smaller and separate sub-committees that were in charge of more specific aspects of that year’s Winter Carnival with co-chairmen at the head.  One of the most important features of Middlebury’s Winter Carnival is that it is completely student-run with no aid from the college administration, therefore adding to the significance of these three organizations.


Winter Carnival Program- 1934


The Outing Club held the first winter carnival, but the Mountain Club soon took over these responsibilities.  The Mountain Club at Middlebury was formed during the 1930-1931 school year and sponsored the first mid-winter holiday event in 1931 even though the first official annual winter carnival did not appear on the social calendar until 1934.  This winter carnival included ski meets, skating exhibitions, and hockey contests, among other events, and was a large success.  The Mountain Club decided to organize the winter carnival in 1934 because that was when the biggest winter sports boom at Middlebury occurred due to the formation of the Intercollegiate Ski Union.  As a result, skiing became the most popular winter sport on campus and there was a growing interest in having an organized event that featured skiing and other winter sports events.


Winter Carnival Program- 1934


The Mountain Club originated when thirty men and women made a showshoe trip to Lincoln Mountain in January 1931.  When Johnny Storm and Sam Abbott noticed the potential of the unspoiled land they saw on this trip, these two students decided to create the Mountain Club.  Membership cards began circulating within a month for both students and alumni, and participation rates in this club were as high as 95% of the study body at one point.  Even though this is because every student was given a membership card for the Mountain Club when they enrolled at the college, the high membership rates demonstrate how popular the Mountain Club was during its prime.  Club activities included skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, fishing, climbing, ski-joring, and the winter carnival.  According to the 1931 Handbook, the Mountain Club was organized “to take advantage of the large mountain campus connected with the College, a gift of the late Colonel Joseph Battell.”  Currently, Middlebury’s Mountain Club is the college’s oldest club.


Winter Carnival Program- 1967


One of the primary reasons why the Mountain Club decided to officially organize the first annual Winter Carnival at Middlebury was because athletics at the college came to almost a complete standstill during the winter months due to the limited facilities available at the time.  The gymnasium was only capable of providing space for varsity teams and the freshmen physical education classes.  The Mountain Club educated people about the possibilities that the campus’s location had to offer in terms of winter sports and other activities outside.  So the Mountain Club wanted to plan and organize a winter sports holiday.  The Mountain Club ran Winter Carnival until 1973, when the Carnival Committee took it over.  Ever since, the club has become smaller and more specialized towards technical adventure sports, but the club’s goals and purposes have remained much the same.


Winter Carnival Program- 1958


There were many responsibilities for the organization that managed and coordinated Winter Carnival each year, including selling tickets, advertising the events, arranging sleeping quarters for visiting teams, and coming up with that year’s theme, among other important tasks.  They also had to find places for the dates of students to stay for the weekend because these visitors were not allowed to sleep in the dormitories.  As a result, the organizers had to ask townspeople to offer living arrangements for these visitors during the weekend.  Additionally, the committees were responsible for ensuring that the carnival was a financial success, which was hindered when there was a lack of snow.  A large number of tickets need to be sold just to break even, so along with the enjoyment of the events by the spectators and participants, the financial aspect of the winter carnival is among the top priorities of the organizing committee.


*Click here to learn about the evolution of Middlebury’s carnival programs.

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