DU History

Winter Carnival: Frosty fun for Pioneers since 1961

This photo from the Kynewisbok shows students at Winter Carnival in 1963.

Winter Carnival is a favorite Pioneers tradition. The first Winter Carnival was held the weekend of Jan. 13, 1961, and was sponsored by the Pioneer Ski Club.

Although that weekend included a Friday the 13th, the date was selected because it coincided with NCAA skiing finals competition at the Winter Park ski area. It had been an eventful week on campus: The announcement that the University was dropping football had been made that Tuesday, and on Friday ground was broken for DU’s new Boettcher Center.

Activities at the inaugural Winter Carnival included an on-campus snow sculpture contest and a Snow Queen competition. The 1961 Snow Queen winner, freshman political science major Nancy Sand, of Oceanside, N.Y., was announced at the Friday night DU-North Dakota hockey game. DU beat the Fighting Sioux by an astounding score of 15-1. Sand’s “Snow Queen attendants” were Carolyn Stites, Sharon Bohlen, Lou Luske and Gene Dudley.

On Saturday, chartered buses left the old Student Union bound for Winter Park, located at the southern end of the Fraser Valley in Grand County. Ticket price for the round trip was $3.75.  That evening, a torchlight parade was held on the slopes, and a dance ($1 admission) was held at the Winter Park Lodge.

Winter Carnival has been an annual tradition ever since. (It was canceled just once, in 1981, due to poor skiing conditions.) The carnival’s location has changed several times, moving to Steamboat Springs for a number of years and then to Crested Butte in the 1980s when Steamboat Springs accommodations became harder to find. At that time, the event expanded from a two-night to a three-night affair because it was easier to book accommodations. In 1990, the event returned to its roots in Winter Park.

This year, for the first time, Winter Carnival is open to alumni, parents, faculty and staff as well as students — visit Alumni Relations’ Winter Carnival page for more information.


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