When snow finally arrives in Charlottesville, students and townspeople alike flock to the white, glistening hillsides with sleds, toboggans or whatever they have on hand. Among previous conveyances: a canoe careening down the hill in Washington Park and discarded election signs whooshing down slopes near the Dell and O-Hill.
2. Lighting of the Lawn
A tradition that began in 2001, the Lighting of the Lawn is the illumination of approximately 12,700 lights that decorate the Rotunda, pavilions, columns and arcades of the Lawn. With cups of cocoa in hand and serenaded by a cappella groups, about 6,000 people gather to share in the holiday cheer.
3. Ice Sports
Not only does the ice rink downtown offer public skating and ice skate rentals, it is also home to the UVA ice hockey team. You can show off your triple axel or cheer as UVA makes a power play. Or if you're wobbly on skates, you might want to try curling, a slippery but blade-free sport you can do wearing shoes.
4. Basketball games
Nothing will warm you up like cheering for the Cavaliers. And there’s plenty of motivation this season. Not since the Ralph Sampson era has a men’s team opened with such a strong showing—14-2 and ranked No. 15 in the AP Top 25 (as of Jan. 16). On the women's side, head coach Joanne Boyle is making a strong debut with her squad's gutsy performances, such as beating then No. 3 Tennessee at JPJ Arena.
5. Steam tunnel vents
Only in the colder weather can you enjoy an unintended side effect of UVA’s steam heating system. On the way to class, hot air rises from the vents and warms you for a moment before you must walk on. It’s one of those small moments that make the winter chill a bit more bearable.
6. Snow Shenanigans
There is something enchanted about the quiet that snow brings to a winter day and the crunching sound of winter boots. Snow is a relative rarity in Charlottesville, but when it comes there are snowball fights around first-year dorms, snowmen on the Lawn and snow football at Mad Bowl.
7. Rush and Bid Day
About a decade ago, rush was moved to the second semester so first-year students could better adjust to college life before joining a Greek organization. Rush activities have shifted from traditional fall events like football games to events like laser tag, bowling, crab-leg dinners and snow tubing.
8. Stargazing on clear winter nights
Ever notice how you can see the stars better on cold nights? Cold air can't hold as much moisture as warm air, which means you have a better chance of a good view of the constellations from the McCormick Observatory. In late February, Mercury will be easier to see than it will be all year.
The observatory is open to the public on the first and third Friday nights of each month. View the observatory's website.
9. Cozying up with a book
When the weather outside is dreadful, the coziest places on Grounds might be in the University’s numerous libraries. Curl up with a book and enjoy the company of stuffed bookshelves. Snag a comfy chair in the always popular—and almost silent—McGregor Room.
Openings, Midwinters, Easters and Closings were once the big UVA formal dances each year. This Midwinters dance at Memorial Gym in 1955 was headlined by Ziggy Elman and the Tommy Dorsey Band. Hot jazz kept out the cold weather. By the 1980s, Midwinters was in decline and since then has been lost to history. When you're wearing a bulky winter coat, it's nice to remember winter glamour.
11. Getting reacquainted with Memorial Gym
When it's too cold to exercise outside, it's a good time to rediscover the indoor track at Mem Gym. There's something romantic about the old building and imagining the echoes of the boxing matches of yesteryear as you listen to the radiators hiss and rattle. You can learn a martial art or watch a wrestling match, and after you're done, the sauna awaits.
12. Hit the slopes
Wintergreen Resort is just a short drive away. On the way, observe the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains decked with snow. On the slopes themselves, watch out for the Virginia Alpine Ski and Snowboard Team; they're fast. Don't know how to ski? You can learn or just snow tube.
13. The unobstructed Rotunda
When the Academical Village was built, there were very few trees around the structures. The outlines of Jefferson's designs were completely visible to students and visitors of the early University. In winter, when tree branches are denuded of their leaves, the view of the Rotunda is closer to what Jefferson would have seen in his time than at any other time of year.
14. Instant mountains—just add snow
A massive pile of snow in the Barrack's Road parking lot was dubbed "Mount Chipotle" a couple of winters ago. A group of UVA graduate students established the Mount Chipotle National Research Observatory, whose lighthearted scientific activities included summit ascents, core sampling and observing melt rates. While Mount Chipotle was the result of a record season of 55 inches of snow, temporary landmarks rise from the parking lot after any substantial snowfall.