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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Making the most of a Carleton winter

As Carls hunker down for the long Minnesota winter, dining hall trays and broomball sticks come out to play. Whether you are lamenting the cold and eagerly awaiting spring or enjoying the snow, it is undeniable that Carleton students have found a number of fun and exciting ways to have fun despite (or maybe because of) the cold. From ice skating on the two rinks in the Bald Spot, to skiing through the Arb, sledding down Bell Field, or even diving into the frigid waters of Lyman Lakes — there is no shortage of exciting winter traditions and activities at Carleton, both new and old. 

One storied and unique Carleton tradition is broomball. Broomball is a winter sport played officially on intramural teams or just for fun with friends. Similarly to hockey, broomball players aim to score a ball through the goals while running on the ice with their sneakers and broomsticks. The Carletonian first reported on broomball in 1977, but the tradition of broomball at Carleton likely predates this first recorded mention. 

Today, broomball has grown to be one of the most beloved and popular Carleton winter traditions — to the point where it’s featured in the student life section of admissions pamphlets. Intramural Winter Sports coordinator Sophia Quast ‘23 recalls, “I first heard about broomball from the Carleton admissions pamphlet. They heavily advertised it as a winter activity.” While Quast played broomball on the “Carleton Butchers” team her freshman and sophomore years, she ultimately found her calling in working with the Intramural Program as an Intramural Czar, which is responsible for “league advertising, planning and logistics.” 

While she has “sworn off” playing broomball as an upperclassman, Quast still enjoys the winter atmosphere of Carleton and enjoys finding other ways to connect with her friends. She states, “My favorite part of winter at Carleton is taking time to slow down and hang out with my friends indoors. I like to enjoy the beautiful snowy vistas from the warmth of my dorm or a local coffee shop. A walk or two outside when it’s above freezing is also quite nice!” 

While some learn through trial and error that they prefer to be indoors during the long winter months, others realize and fully embrace their love of the cold and snow. Nicolo del Negro ‘23 is one such person. Del Negro jokes that, “it is a hot take but I think winter is my favorite season.” He shares that his favorite part of a Carleton winter “is all the winter activities I am able to do!” In addition to broomball, the ice rinks, which have appeared mysteriously on the Bald Spot every winter since the mid-20th-century, also provide the perfect setting for hockey games, ice skating with friends and even PE classes. 

As president of the Ski Club, del Negro is no stranger to braving the snow and cold of either the Bald Spot or the Arb. “I love to ice skate on the rinks, I love playing broomball, I love skiing, and I love tray sledding. I also love the snow and the cold,” he remarks. With the first snowfall, the Arb transforms into a serene and beautiful winter landscape — and the only way to effectively navigate the unplowed snow is with cross-country skis. Nordic skiing was first officially introduced at Carleton in 1939, and Alpine skiing in the 1970s. At some points in Carleton history, Nordic skiing was even a varsity sport (the last year that Carleton produced a varsity Nordic team was 2001). While Carleton no longer sports an official Nordic team, the lively tradition of Nordic skiing is as strong and present as ever.

Another extremely popular winter tradition at Carleton is sledding down Bell Field on dining hall trays. For del Negro, “dining hall tray sledding is a very fun Carleton activity” that brings back years of fond memories. “I think everybody graduates with at least one memory of going down Bell Field on a tray. It is a great unique experience that every Carleton student has.” This year, del Negro and others organized a “Winter Olympics” event in which students met up to race down Bell Field on both sleds and dining hall trays. 

Sawyer Blair ‘23 enjoys a number of winter sports, but sledding down Bell Hill on dining hall trays is his favorite.

 “Bell Hill is a great sledding hill, and dining hall trays work very well as sleds. You can’t control them and they go fast, which is pretty much everything you want,” said Blair. 

Of course, store-bought sleds might be a better option for those who prefer a more controlled sledding experience. Blair explains that this usually isn’t an issue, and that “anyone walking by Bell will usually come over if they see people traying.”

“It’s a good time all around!” Blair said.

While many of the activities we’ve discussed thus far are traditions practically frozen in time, Carls have not shied away from breaking the ice anew with their own ideas. One such Carl was Jonah Docter-Loeb’25, who, earlier in the term, organized a mass snowball fight on the Mini Bald Spot. 

A D.C. native, Docter-Loeb has appreciated easier access to snow since coming to Carleton. 

“It just amazes me that you could have feet of… individual snowflakes and ice crystals formed around some random dust particle in the atmosphere,” said Docter-Loeb. “Being able to look closely at the pile of snow and see individual snowflakes is just magical.” 

Finding campus blanketed in snow at the beginning of the term, Docter-Loeb wanted to make the most of the “unique, free and sticky medium.” He recounted, “two of my closest friends are abroad this term [but] I wanted to find people to play in the fresh snow with, so I made a stupid poster on Canva and shared it on Instagram. Then I just spent the day telling everyone I knew about it.”

As it turned out, roughly thirty combatants arrived ready to fight. Participants spent the first half-hour splitting into spontaneous teams and building elaborate snow forts; the fight itself lasted roughly an hour. “It was exhausting and I was sore the next day, which is an awesome feeling,” Docter-Loeb concluded. He plans to make use of the last few weeks of frigidity as well. “I usually carry around a small thing of bubbles when it’s this cold out. If you’ve never seen a bubble freeze and shatter,” he said, “come up to me and I’ll show you.”

Docter-Loeb previously brought another winter tradition to Carleton College when he founded Polar Plunge Club. The goal of Polar Plunge is simple: “Jump in Lyman Lakes, then run to the Goodhue showers.” Since the club’s first meeting on January 9, several more plunges have taken place. “After wading in, before you put your head under, your heart races. But then, through deep breaths, it feels like you can slow it down. There is something powerful about being able to learn to relax yourself in such extreme conditions,” Docter-Loeb said. 

One may take the higher temperatures (we’ve gone from zero degrees to a whole thirty-five) and melting snow as a sign that the long winter is finally beginning to ease up. However, if the expected snowfall next week has anything to say about it, the Minnesota winter has no plans of leaving just yet. Luckily, if the past is any indication, Carls will surely continue finding ways to make the most of these chilly months. From storied sporting events to new traditions that will one day snowball into old ones, winters at Carleton College have been marked with an array of unique and fun activities. 

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