Winter Carnival returns with ski races, festivities, fireworks

Izzy Polanco


The Nordic teams raced at Prospect Mountain in Woodford, Vt. (Photo courtesy of Ann Celi.)

For the first time since 2020, the College’s ski teams hosted a home carnival during Winter Carnival weekend of festivities organized by the Williams Outing Club (WOC), which was held annually before the COVID-19 pandemic. The two-day series marked the fifth carnival of the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA) circuit. The Ephs placed ninth overall in the carnival, with strong individual performances garnering expectations of potential NCAA qualifications.

The three days of Winter Carnival programming, from Feb. 16 to Feb. 18 and anchored around the third Friday of February, were organized by the WOC Winter Carnival Committee. This year, co-chairs Malcolm Bellairs ’23, Sam Magid ’25, and Abby Murphy ’25 led the planning. With classes canceled on that weekend’s Friday, the festivities featured student performances, a tricycle race, and a cookout, all unified around this year’s theme of “100 DegreEPHS.”

Most notably, this year saw a revival of traditions centered around the ski races at Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort and Prospect Mountain. Festivities at the mountains did not take place last year due to weather-related setbacks, or the previous year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. WOC funded buses from campus to Jiminy on Friday for the Alpine races and to Prospect on Saturday for students to watch the Nordic teams compete. At both races, community members donned beach attire to watch the teams.

On Friday, Alpine competed in the slalom portion of the race at Jiminy Peak, which saw firm powder despite the warm and rainy weather conditions. Two skiers from the men’s team placed within the top 30 finishers, and all six skiers from the women’s team placed within the top 40. Bennett Snyder ’25 led the Ephs on the men’s side, ending the day in a season-best 23rd place, 2.52 seconds behind the first-place finisher from the University of Vermont. Maddy Sullivan ’23 and Maddie Semet ’26 skied into career bests, finishing the day in 18th and 20th place, respectively. With their first top 30 finishes, Eliza Sullivan ’26 and Cooper Iacobelli ’26 earned the first carnival points of their collegiate careers. Women’s Alpine ended the day in seventh place and men’s Alpine placed 10th.

Maddy Sullivan ’23 skis into a career-best 18th overall finish at the slalom (Photo courtesy of Sports Information).

Before Friday’s leg of the carnival at Prospect, warm rain on Thursday night nearly prevented Nordic races from being held, co-captain of men’s Nordic Jacob Jampel ’23 explained. Because Prospect does not manufacture snow, volunteers, coaches, and men’s crew head coach Marc Mandel shoveled snow onto the course for a combined 15 hours, Jampel said. “Without them, we would not have raced on the weekend,” Jampel wrote in an email to the Record.

On Friday, even as the temperatures dipped into the low 40s, the rain did not cease on Prospect.

“Come Friday, we experienced the craziest weather I have ever raced in,” Jampel continued. “Temperatures were in the low 40s Fahrenheit and a steady rain turned into torrential downpour during our morning races. It got really dark outside and the whole racing stadium flooded into slush. People were basically water skiing through many massive puddles by the end of Friday.”

Despite the weather conditions, both men’s and women’s Nordic had strong showings in the 10k on Friday, racing two laps of Prospect’s five-kilometer course. The men were led by Keelan Durham ’25 in 19th place and Quinn Wilson ’25 in 40th. The women were led by three top 50 finishers: Francesca Kitch ’26 in 39th, Jenae Rasmussen ’23 in 42nd, and Molly Blakslee ’25 in 43rd. After Nordic combined scores with Alpine, the Ephs were ranked ninth overall after the first day of competition.

Because the course was closed to all on Thursday for shoveling, many competitors from other schools skied on Prospect for the first time during the races. “Our course has some really technical and often scary downhills,” Rasmussen wrote in an email to the Record. “Everyone in the circuit is super talented, so they were able to figure out the course quickly, but it definitely helped our team to know the ins-and-outs of Prospect.”

On Saturday, Alpine wrapped up its two-day series at Jiminy with the giant slalom under sunny skies. Women’s Alpine had eight finishers and saw career-best performances from Chloe Aust ’25, Isabel Grondin ’23, and Claudia Cantin ’23. Aust finished the second day of competition in eighth place overall, 2.43 seconds behind the first-place finisher from Saint Michael’s College, while Grondin and Cantin finished in 15th and 27th, respectively. Semet finished in 29th, and Eliza Sullivan finished in 50th. Scott Bocock ’24 led men’s Alpine with a 34th place finish, 4.19 seconds behind the first place finisher from the University of Vermont. Bocock was followed by Iacobelli in 35th place and Snyder in 47th place. The women’s team placed 6th on the day, while the men’s team placed 12th.

At Prospect, men’s Nordic raced ten kilometers, and women’s Nordic raced five kilometers. The races were marked by a bluebird sky and fast and icy conditions, according to Jampel. Durham led the men’s team with an eighth-place finish, followed by Wilson in 28th and Henry Johnstone ’24 in 41st. Rasmussen led the women’s team in 24th, and Blakslee finished behind her in 34th. After the races, men’s Nordic was ranked 7th overall and women’s Nordic was ranked 8th. After combining scores with Alpine, the Ephs finished the carnival ranked ninth overall.

Closing out the second evening of programming, WOC hosted a highly anticipated fireworks show over Cole Field. Bellairs, who served for a second year on the WOC Winter Carnival committee, said that coordinating the fireworks show involved the most ambitious logistics of this year’s events. “I remember when we posed it to Scott Lewis this year,” Bellairs wrote in an email to the Record. “He pulled out a literal Rolodex with a number for Berkshire Fireworks, [which] he hadn’t called in probably a dozen years — and I just thought, ‘There is no way this is going to pan out’… I have to give serious credit to Sam Magid and Abby Murphy for really believing in the fireworks and bringing enough enthusiasm to outweigh my cynicism.”

The logistical calculus behind the fireworks show, Bellairs explained, required coordination between WOC and a flurry of College and Town offices. He credited All-Campus Entertainment (ACE) and the Office of the President with securing funding, and he added that the committee worked with Campus Safety Services (CSS), the College’s legal counsel, the Williamstown Fire Department, and the Town community to attain the permit for the fireworks. He also lauded Assistant Director of the Outing Club Dave Ackerson’s “essential” role in leading meetings throughout the process.

“Planning Winter Carnival is honestly one of the most challenging logistical projects I’ve had at Williams,” Bellairs wrote. “It doesn’t have the institutional support, infrastructure, or traditions that Mountain Day does … to plan a whole weekend of events.”

WOC Winter Carnival Committee co-chairs Malcolm Bellairs ’23, Abby Murphy ’25, and Sam Magid ’25 (left to right) watch the fireworks from Cole Field. (Photo courtesy of Abby Murphy.)

The committee also communicated with Dining Services, the Residential Life Team (RLT), and the Office of Campus Life (OCL) to plan the weekend’s festivities, Bellair wrote. Skiers expressed gratitude for the planning, which encouraged students to spectate friends’ races. “Racing a carnival at my home venue for my first and last [season] was so special,” Jampel wrote. “It was remarkable to see many of my peers who had never watched a Nordic race before come out and cheer thanks to WOC’s hard work.”

Aust — who is ranked 13th in the EISA for women’s Alpine — agreed. “It was really nice to be able to cross the finish line and have friends, alumni, and family there who don’t always get to see us race,” she wrote in an email to the Record. “Personally, [competing at home] made the day feel less intense because I stuck to the same routine as I do on a normal training day at Jiminy, which helped alleviate some of the pressure.”

Maddy Sullivan, a co-captain of women’s Alpine, described the weekend’s performances as the strongest Eph showing of the season, emphasizing the historically fierce competition within the EISA circuit, whose 13 teams consist of both NESCAC and NCAA Div. I competitors from around New England, including from the Ivy League. “There’s a lot of people in the [EISA] circuit who have been on their national ski teams or raced at the World Cup before,” she said. “But the team definitely held their own this weekend, and it was probably our best weekend so far this season.”

Next weekend, the Ephs will compete at the sixth and final carnival of the winter season, the EISA Regionals, hosted by St. Lawrence in Lake Placid, N.Y. To compensate for a canceled Alpine race due to inclement weather earlier in the season, next weekend’s carnival will include a third day of Alpine racing rather than the traditional two.