December is here, and winter is making its inevitable, annual descent on Madison. The season looms large in the UW’s legacy — anyone who chooses to go to college at this latitude had better be ready for a little ice. Badger Voice offers you its list of our ten favorite aspects of winter at Wisconsin. (For the quotes, we thank the readers of Badger Insider magazine.)
10. Sledding – Madison’s hills are made for leg-breaking fun!
In the winter of '56, some of us got the idea to put in a toboggan run from the back steps of the fraternity house. We would go down the hill, and when we got to the end of the run, the toboggan would fly off into space (with the passengers holding on for dear life) before hitting the slope about half way down to the water's edge and racing off across the lake.
Ty-Sherrie Trbovich ’71
9. Warm Dorms – The rooms may not be toasty, but there’s always excess heat somewhere.
My absolute favorite snowbound memory is sitting on the dryer vents outside of Sellery hell with my good friend Patricia Foley. Not only did the heat from the vent keep us warm, but who doesn't love the smell of freshly clean clothes?
Josh Yochem '05
8. Cold Apartments – Off-campus housing is better at building character than building buildings.
The windows leaked rain and gusts of wind blew in snow. The property manager was a student and felt sorry for all of us. He would kick up the boiler that heated the hallways to about 90 degrees and told us all to keep our front doors open to let the heat in our apartments. My years at UW-Madison made me a stronger person.
Judy Kramer '83
7. Seeing Southerners’ First Winter – When the first snow falls, so do our friends from Dixie.
I arrived at UW from south Florida. When the first flakes fell in late October, I was ecstatic. Then the snow really came. I spent most of my first winter on my rear, sliding down Bascom Hill.
Karen L. Michaelson MA'68, PhD'73
6. Ski Jump Memories – Muir Knoll used to attract world-class ski-jumpers — and the less talented, too.
In 1949, there was very little snow. A volunteer group from the ski club made arrangements for two semi-trailers and several cars to head north and bring snow back to dress the ski jump. All in a day's work for a Hoofer.
Schmitty '52 and Ben Thiel '51
5. Snowmen (or Other Snow Creatures) – Snow is a true Badger’s chosen medium for sculpture.
Here are the boys from Sullivan Hall, Bryan House in the winter of 1977. There was a lakeshore dorm snow-sculpting contest, and we won with our greater-than-life-size Darth Vader.
Patrick Splinter '81
4. Winter Carnival – Through this long-standing tradition, the Union’s Hoofers helped campus celebrate the cold.
Hoofers Ski Club sponsored two main events during the festival in the ‘80s, a Ballet Ski Contest on Bascom Hill and Winter Mixology. A dedicated group of ski clubbers would bring their gear out to lower Bascom Hill and … perform routines in front of a large crowd of spectators. The group would then migrate over to the Winter Mixology 101 tent at Memorial Union [to] get lessons on preparing their favorite winter beverages, like Broken Legs to Snow Shoes. A practical "hands on" class, it allowed the participants to sample and share their creations.
Carrie (Bugel) Gruninger ’84
3. Lake Ice
After a long night of “studying” at the Rathskeller, a group of us decided to walk home over the lake. The moon was more than bright enough and the ice a foot thick. There … came a lull, a moment when we heard the lake sing. As Lake Mendota froze and its ice cover expanded, fissures ran through the ice producing a deep and prolonged rumbling like I’ve never heard before or since.
Edgar Borchardt '73
2. Legendary Liberty – The iconic Pail and Shovel Party creation from the 1970s has returned to frozen Lake Mendota several times over the years.
It gave you the illusion that Lady Liberty had been dropped from the sky and crashed through the ice.
Gil Cyr '76
1. Traying – The best thing we ever got out of Housing’s dining halls was a swift tray to ride down an open, snowy hillside.
I was the housefellow in Kronshage. One night, I was "on duty" in the main hall office, manning the phone to address any crisis. I created my own crisis by eschewing my duties and eloping to Liz for a few tray runs, a nasty wipeout, a broken finger, and a trip to the UW-ER.
Joe Kryshak ’85, JD’88, MA’96
Images 10, 8, 6, 3 and 2 courtesy UW-Madison Archives. Images 9 and 4 courtesy Jeff Miller, University Communications. Images 7 and 1 courtesy Michael Forster Rothbart, University Communications.