For over a century, Winter Carnival has been an annual feature of many New England schools and colleges. KUA’s first carnival followed a few years after Dartmouth College introduced the weekend to its community. In 1910, Dartmouth’s Outing Club organized a field day with skiing as the main focus. The following year they included social activities, invited women to attend and called it Winter Carnival. KUA’s first Winter Carnival was also begun by its Outing Club, but with one big advantage over Dartmouth. KUA was a coed school and all students had the opportunity to be involved in all aspects of the activities.
In the 1920s, in addition to skiing, Winter Carnival events included sleigh rides, a tug-of-war, snowshoeing, tobogganing and other events. Although sledding from The Hilltop has always been discouraged, it looks as though the group of boys pictured above had at least one thrilling ride down the hill before the town authorities contacted Headmaster Tracy to protest – as once reported in an issue of The Kimball Union.
The young women pictured at right prepared for their snowshoeing expedition near the same place as the tobogganers. I imagine there was little danger from cars on a snowy Hilltop in the 1920s!
Because KUA was an all-boys’ school from 1935-1974, boys were allowed to invite their girl friends from home as guests for the annual Winter Carnival. They would vacate one of the dorms and the visitors would take over their rooms for the weekend. In 1941, The Kimball Union reported that, “The arrival of the lady guests at Meriden created the usual ardent comparison indulged in by all those who witnessed the event. The windows of downstairs D.R. were fairly crammed with spectators, as the arrivals made their way to the upper stories and their rooms.” The formal dance was held in the Silver gym followed by refreshments in the old D.R. dining hall. Snow sculpture competitions were held between dorms. The winning sculpture in 1941 is pictured above. The newspaper stated, “This ski boot, about 10 feet high and 12 feet long, built by the members of Chellis Hall, was so well done … it easily captured the statuary cup …. It is built of snow packed around a framework of wood and chicken wire.” Notice the line of faculty chaperones in the upper right hand corner and behind them on the fireplace mantle, the school mascot.
Archival ski footage, ca. 1940, including some Winter Carnival scenes.
By the early 1960s, KUA’s faculty and students had finished building the Ira P. Townsend ’38 Ski Hill located on French’s Ledges and competitions were being held there. At Winter Carnival, the boys and their dates would hike to the hill to watch alpine and jumping events. In 1962 the Concordia reported that the “Junior Nordic Championships of the U.S.E.A.S.A. were held on the new ski hill …. A week later the team won the Prep School Championships at Middlebury by a margin of 16 points, the largest in the thirteen years of competition.”