Shut the Books, Hit the Slopes

Dartmouth's annual Winter Carnival offers harried B-schoolers from all over a chance to party, network...and ski

This just in: The Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, N.H., has maintained its No. 1 spot for the second year in a row. Sure, the school's BusinessWeek B-school rating holds at No. 16. But there's another way to rank a B-school -- debatable as it may be -- and by that standard, Tuck is again at the top of the pack.

You see, Dartmouth just won the Kneissel Cup Competition for the five-person team of MBAs that can down the most nonalcoholic beer (were it not sponsored by corporate recruiters, surely the alcohol wouldn't be sidelined) in the quickest time. The Kneissel Cup is the final event at Tuck's age-old Winter Carnival, a weekend blowout that attracts over 200 MBAs from about a dozen B-schools worldwide. They come by plane and car to party on Friday, Feb. 23, ski in two slalom races on Saturday, and to, well, party again on Saturday night. And among intercollegiate B-school sports tournaments, this is easily one of the top events of the year for MBAs who fancy the cold.

And cold it was. Most MBAs were well wrapped for their races down an icy, gate-riddled course at Dartmouth Skiway in Lyme, N.H. Of course, they let their guard down and traded interviewing suits for more casual attire -- there were sparkled wigs, Scottish kilts, Hawaiian shorts, and one Wonder Woman costume -- complete with cape. A handful of more serious racers from Harvard, Columbia, and Tuck, on the other hand, wore game faces and professional racing attire, hoping for maximum speed.


  And the best skiers at the Winter Carnival? Harvard Business School's team of four men and two women took the prize. That wasn't necessarily because their ski suits were aerodynamic -- most of the Cambridge, Mass., team are experienced racers. The best female racer, Narcisa Sehovic from Slovenia, is Harvard's resident top NCAA skier. She led the two races with a combined score of 39.37 seconds. Tuck's Happy Hazelton followed in a close second, with a combined 39.97-second finish. Among the men, Greg Tobias of Harvard raced a 36.83, followed by classmate Erich Horsley, who finished with a combined score of 37.09 seconds.

Competition isn't too intense, though. Such sports trials have become one of MBA students' best perks, and they treat them as the welcome break from studying that they are. The B-schoolers practically eat, drink, ski, and sleep for free at Tuck's carnival, thanks to recruiters who cough up about $8,000 each to spend quality time with the MBAs they might want to hire. In return for sponsorship, corporations get to print their logos on racing bibs and T-shirts. At Tuck, Goldman Sachs, Accenture, and Level 3 Communications sponsored the weekend -- and some recruiters even participated in the events.

Accenture sent about 12 recruiters to Hanover. They came to sell MBAs on working for the company, says Sarah Brubacher, an Accenture manager. In the crowd, another Accenture manager, Susan Chargin, from one of the company's California offices, talked with the wife of a student who was considering a job offer upon graduation in 2002. Did Chargin, a 1995 Tuck graduate, make the sale? "We'll see," she says. Earlier this year, she and other Accenture recruiters went on a skiing trip with Stanford MBAs to work their charm.


  At the same event last year, Level 3, a communications and information-technology company based in Broomfield, Colo., courted 27-year-old Scott Reardon, then a first-year MBA looking for a summer internship. "It makes a difference meeting someone at an event like this," says Gordon Boyes, senior director of corporate development for Level 3. He says he wouldn't have been as convinced that Reardon would fit without seeing him in this social atmosphere. Reardon was such a good match that he accepted a full-time job offer from the company in August, 2000, and hasn't returned to B-school. On Saturday, in fact, he was at Tuck recruiting.

But make no mistake, the Carnival and other off-campus events aren't just about recruiting. Says Erik Barenthein, a second-year MBA at Columbia Business School: "This is a party, and there just happens to be a ski race." And at the starting gate in the morning, he says, "we all have the same handicap," adding with a laugh that they might be better off clutching a bottle of aspirin, rather than ski poles.

Of course, some teams take the Saturday races slightly more seriously. The Johnson School of Business from Cornell University held tryouts for the opportunity to wear the ski team's black fleece jackets -- sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb. Johnson is one B-school that helps its MBAs go to just about every tournament -- including softball games at Virginia's Darden School, volleyball matches at Wharton, various hockey games, and basketball tournaments at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business. Indeed, Cornell MBAs at Winter Carnival expect to be reimbursed for some expenses from student activity fees they paid as part of tuition.


  Distance is no deterrent for the competitors. Nearly 30 students from London Business School flew to Hanover for the weekend. The school brought its own band, which accompanied Tuck's band on Friday night. The crowd cheered "tattoo, tattoo," calling for the London students to knight, as it were, other B-schoolers and even recruiters with LBS temporary tattoos. London started its tattoo "tradition" at the MBA games in Europe in 2000.

Also represented were Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, Wharton, the Sloan School of Management at MIT, the University of Chicago Business School, Carlson at Minnesota, and Darden, which produced the ski team that placed last among 41. The University of Michigan Business School was doubtless there in spirit if not in force, since only one UMich student showed up.

MBA games are all the rage at other B-schools, too. Carrie Smalley, 28, a second-year MBA at Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, didn't trek to Tuck to ski, but she will travel to Durham, N.C., for a powder-puff football game against Duke's women MBAs. "It's a nice change of pace from school work -- and we want to beat Duke, that's the important thing," says Smalley. She and 20 other women are already practicing for the April event that attracted about 200 spectators last year. "We work hard, but we have a good time, too."


  Duke will also host the MBA Olympics in April, as well as the international rugby tournament that attracts schools including London, INSEAD, and even one from Australia. Tuck will hold its World Cup Soccer tournament in the spring, as well as a hockey game against local rivals in the winter.

In all, it goes to show that B-school is about a lot more than spreadsheets, PowerPoint slides, and job-interview schedules. It can be a messy stretch of parties, too.

By Mica Schneider in Hanover, N.H.

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