Icy water, wind tests dippers

Blackfalds got the weather. Sylvan Lake got the people It seems perfectly normal, in Alberta’s northern climes, for people to head south, seeking relief from winter temperatures.

Mike Bojde

Mike Bojde

Blackfalds got the weather. Sylvan Lake got the people

It seems perfectly normal, in Alberta’s northern climes, for people to head south, seeking relief from winter temperatures.

It has become equally normal, in some circles, for people to laugh in the face of adversity, peel down to their skivvies and leap into a bath of icy water.

Getting out is the worst part, says veteran polar dipper Ken Forsyth, a member of the Chief’s Bar And Grill team at Sylvan Lake.

Forsyth took his sixth jump during the town’s annual winter festival on Saturday, helping his fellow team members raise $1,000 in pledges for their chosen charity, Sylvan Lake Community Partnership.

His only regret is that they didn’t raise more money. Oh, wait. There’s also that problem with his feet. Forsyth suffered severe frostbite during a military training exercise a number of years ago. He could barely walk after his stint in the pool because his badly-abused dogs respond badly to the cold.

But he’s going to do it again next year, and so is teammate Vanessa Volkama, who did the polar leap for the first time this year.

Born and raised in Sylvan Lake, Volkama, 24, said she has watched the annual polar dip for as long as she can remember. She felt it was time to take part.

The water itself, hovering around the freezing point, wasn’t that bad compared to the icy wind that was blowing across Sylvan Lake on Saturday afternoon, she said.

Like her teammates, Volkama bolted out of the water and back to the heated tent where one of the town’s volunteer firefighters offered her a blanket.

Wrapped from head to toe, she headed back to Chief’s to warm up and debrief.

Chief’s owner Rob MacKenzie said his crew have raised a team every year for the past six to eight years.

Altogether, there were 50 participants in the Sylvan Lake jump, each having a little fun with the weather while raising money for their chosen charities.

Fire Chief Cliff Brausen, who had a crew on hand in case of problems, said none of the jumpers got into any trouble.

Blackfalds got into the act as well, holding its annual penguin dip at the town’s All-Star Athletic Park on Monday afternoon.

Unlike the cold and nasty weather that had blown through on Saturday, the Blackfalds penguin dippers woke to a balmy, sunny morning with temperatures reaching 2C by 1 p.m.

With crowds of locals watching, 13 penguin dippers registered for the Blackfalds event, plunging their nearly naked bodies into a man-made pool carved out of a huge pile of snow.

Sylvan Lake plumber Dan Rudkevich said jumping into icy water is no big deal. For him, it’s a daily occurrence in the winter time, jumping into his own swimming pool and then making a dash to the hot tub to warm up.

Rudkevich was on hand to cheer for the Chief’s team, but opted to stay dry and warm a chair in the bar.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is a independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
A CN rail worker stands on an idle locomotive as protesters opposed to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion block rail lines, in Burnaby, B.C., on Friday, November 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
CN makes rival bid to CP Rail’s offer to buy U.S. railway Kansas City Southern

Offer tops proposal made last month by Canadian Pacific Railway

The Rogers Logo is photographed on a Toronto office on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
Rogers says wireless service fully restored after daylong nationwide outage

Wireless interruption had deep economic implications

President Joe Biden meets with members of congress to discuss his jobs plan in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Feds weighing how to respond after verdict in Chauvin trial

The verdict, and the aftermath, will be a test for Biden

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, centre, tables the federal budget in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Monday April 19, 2021. The federal government unveiled spending plans to manage the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis and chart an economic course for a post-pandemic Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives, Bloc Quebecois to propose budget rewrites as debate starts

O’Toole has signalled that his party will propose its own economic recovery plan

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

The controversial Super League is materializing after Madrid and 11 other clubs announced its creation on Sunday. (File photo by BLACK PRESS)
Super League a ‘longtime dream’ for Madrid president Pérez

League created because coronavirus pandemic left clubs in a dire financial situation

San Jose Sharks centre Patrick Marleau (12) skates during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, in San Jose, Calif., Monday, March 29, 2021. Marleau is skating in his 1,757th game. Only one other player in NHL history has hit that mark. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Tony Avelar
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s record for most NHL games played

Marleau was set to suit up for the 1,768th time Monday

FILE - In this Saturday April 17, 2021 file photo, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II follows the coffin in a car as it makes it’s way past the Round Tower during the funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip inside Windsor Castle in Windsor, England. Now that the Royal Family has said farewell to Prince Philip, attention will turn to Queen Elizabeth II’s 95th birthday on Wednesday, April 21 and, in coming months, the celebrations marking her 70 years on the throne. This combination of events is reminding the United Kingdom that the reign of the queen, the only monarch most of her subjects have ever known, is finite. (Leon Neal/Pool via AP, file)
Queen enters ‘twilight’ of reign after farewell to Philip

Charles’ increased role began gradually

This combination photo shows Oscar nominees for best actress, from left, Viola Davis in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” Andra Day in “The United States vs Billie Holiday,” Vanessa Kirby in “Pieces of a Woman,” Frances McDormand in “Nomadland and Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman.” (Netflix, from left, Hulu, Netflix, Searchlight Pictures, Focus Features via AP)
Oscar predictions: Can anything beat ‘Nomadland’?

Best actress race is perhaps the biggest wild card

Letter: Restrictions have nothing to do with religion

Many have framed the closure of GraceLife Church near Edmonton by Alberta… Continue reading

LtE bug
Letter: Thanking volunteers in Red Deer

National Volunteer Week is April 18 to 24. At the Canadian Cancer… Continue reading

Letter to the editor
Letter: Good on MLAs for speaking out

This is a letter in regard to MLAs not standing united behind… Continue reading

Treena Mielke
Family: Happiness can be found in many ways

I’ve heard it said that necessity is the mother of invention. I… Continue reading

Most Read