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When a snowstorm hits a ski race, it's usually time to call the race and send the crowd home. However, the whipping blizzard shown opposite, sweeping through the Middlebury College Winter Carnival slalom race up in Vermont last year, served mostly to show that some enthusiasms cannot be chilled.
Far from letting the snow stop them, the racers at last year's carnival skied merrily through the swirl. Three hundred students were still rooting when the last skier skidded through the murk to the final slalom gate. This was real winter carnival spirit.
Middlebury's annual fiesta has two poles of attraction: topflight college ski races and the biggest campus parties of the year. But there is a noticeable link between the two. The bundled-up collegians in our picture were probably also the last to leave after four hours of dancing in ski clothes at the Klondike Rush that night, and it is likely they were among the bitter-enders who mixed tapering-off milk punch for the Sunday afternoon parties that traditionally wind up the weekend.
Officially, the carnival consists of the ski races, a hockey game, a basketball game, two dances and an ice show, but the bare catalog of events doesn't really convey the flavor of Middlebury at carnival time. You are more likely near the heart of the matter late at night when the party is down to last-ditch rye iced with hard snow from the bottom of the drift outside the door. Or in the flashes of college humor ("John, come over here and show us your new gray flannels. My, how Ivy League. John, did you get plaid shorts to go underneath?"). Or in the high spirits and unflagging physiques of those who danced four hours at the formal, ran all the way to the dorms to nip the 2 a.m. deadline for coeds and then got out in the early-morning sun to pile their skis on car tops and head for the Middlebury Snow Bowl, 13 miles into the Green Mountain National Forest.
Nearly everyone skis at Middlebury. At least 60 of the students have racing ratings from the Eastern Amateur Ski Association and would rather make the ski team than play halfback on the varsity. Then, of course, there are the coeds, who make a few tentative turns on gentler inclines and call it a day. But it's still skiing, and as one Middlebury man put it, "For a girl, it's almost better to be a skier than good-looking."
Skiing is not minor sport at Middlebury. It is the sport. And the carnival is the big home game for the ski team, with Dartmouth as the traditional rival among the New England colleges entered. Middlebury and Dartmouth almost always rank as the first two colleges in eastern skiing and among the top four in the country. A completely successful carnival is one in which Middlebury beats Dartmouth.
Last year Middlebury lost. In a climactic battle on the Snow Bowl jumping hill, with 2,000 spectators watching and cars parked for three miles down the road (see next page), New Hampshire's Jon Riisnaes bested Middlebury's Norm Cummings after each broke the carnival jump record twice, and as a result Dartmouth won by .4 of a point.
This year Coach Sheehan has been out at the Bowl since the first snow, working his team. Last weekend at the Dartmouth Carnival, Dartmouth took Middlebury handily, but this doesn't mean a thing. As Coach Sheehan said, "We're coming back to surprise them at our carnival this weekend."