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Wish You Were Here: Have an Ice Day

There are two things that every Badger experiences: a slip on an ice patch and frozen boogers. Alumni share their memories of winters on campus.

December 01, 2020

Early-morning hoarfrost coats trees and bushes in snow-covered Alumni Park at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during winter on Feb. 19, 2019. In the background is the Red Gym (Armory and Gymnasium). (Photo by Jeff Miller / UW-Madison)

If there’s one thing that leaves an impression on every Badger, it’s the cold January wind off Lake Mendota. In Madison, winter is the best nine months of the year, and every alum has some story about dealing with ice and snow.

Did your apartment have heat only in summer? Did you fracture anything after slipping on an ice patch? Did you learn to skate on the bumpy surface of a frozen Mendota or learn from a smug sophomore that the first rule of broomball is that there are no rules in broomball? We want to hear your favorite winter story from your time at the UW.

Send us your memory. (Include photos, please!) We’ll add them to this scrapbook.

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A PARTIALLY SUBMERGED STATUE OF LIBERTY ON FROZEN LAKE MENDOTA, FEBRUARY 1979. (PHOTO BY TOM RUST; UW ARCHIVES, 2017S00413)
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Memories

In my sophomore year, winter of ’74–75, my roommate’s brother brought ice boats to sail on Mendota. After a quick lesson, I was speeding on the perfect ice that Mendota is known for. Flying along, inches from the ice was very memorable. It must be, since sometimes I can’t remember why I went into a room.
Chuck Becker ’78
Laughlin, Nevada

My senior year I lived in an apartment building on the lake. On Friday afternoons during my last semester, my best friend, now husband, and I would take a six pack of beer down to the dock. We put the beer in a mesh potato sack and hung it in the water to keep it cold. We put down our towels and spent a couple of hours tanning.
Kathleen Kuehl ’77
Mesa, Arizona

Cross-country skiing across Lake Mendota starting at Memorial Union and continuing across the lake to Warner Park/Northport Drive: it’s amazing how quiet and beautiful it is in the middle of Lake Mendota on a winter night.
James Rinehart ’78, MS’84
Indianapolis, Indiana

I’m so old that I remember how happy UW was that Fidel Castro was victorious in overcoming the Cuban dictator. A student group put up a large statue/figure of Fidel out on frozen L. Mendota. It was a popular attraction. I believe I remember it lasted until the ice melted, and there was a scene with the figure falling slowly into the water. You must have photos in your files.
Bob Warshal ’63, MS’64
Rome, New York

I remember walking a mile from my off-campus apartment to Bascom Hall when it was 15 degrees below and the wind like a knife. I used to dodge into store entryways for a second to take chill off. One time I flew home at semester break, and my father met me in Louisville where it was 15 degrees. He complained about the cold, and I said, “In Madison, if it’s zero, it’s a heat wave!”
James Greene ’65
Harlan Kentucky

I remember a cold, cold winter night when Peter Christianson and I skated from Memorial Union to the governor’s mansion and back. The night was clear and the ice was cracking loudly. We were thrilled we did it.
David Barnes ’73
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

I lived at one of the Alpha Chi Sigma houses, 621 N. Lake Street, my junior and senior years. I remember turning the corner onto Lake from Langdon or State or University, and how the wind would suddenly be so much stronger once the buildings no longer blocked it.
Julie Brady ’79
Wilmington, Delaware

On a cold winter Sunday in February 1971, my roommate Terry Ackerman ’72 and I decided to kick a football across Lake Mendota. The first kick was from the WAA building. Several hours later, we arrived near the Mendota Hospital on the far side. We met a few people fishing, but mostly it was two young men talking about nothing much. We assume we still hold the record for the Lake Mendota football kick crossing. On, Wisconsin!
R. Alan Bates ’72, JD’75
Janesville, Wisconsin

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