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.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com

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