Privates Victor Helgren

Privates Victor Helgren

Bring in the New Year with a cold dip in Trail, BC

It’s the perfect cure for what will be ailing you on New Year’s Day.

It’s the perfect cure for what will be ailing you on New Year’s Day.

Take one near freezing cold river, nearly 150 scantily clad Greater Trail residents, and plunge them into the water for a few seconds.

The annual Polar Bear Swim is heading into its 27th year with military precision, and the host 44th Engineer Squadron will be lining the trenches on New Year’s Day to help effect the cure.

Cpl. Chris Buckley will be in the seven degree Celsius water for 10 minutes on Jan. 1 and was inviting anyone who has dipped, has thought about dipping, or hasn’t plied the waters of the Columbia River in January to partake in the annual polar bear swim.

Nearly 150 people showed up last year for a dip, said Buckley, with almost 500 on the shore huddled near the fire. The water will be above freezing, he said, with temperatures expected to be around seven degrees C, up one degree from last year.

“If you can jump into Kootenay Lake in August, you can handle the Columbia River for a few minutes in January,” Buckley said.

The dip started 27 years ago when seven members of the 44 Engineer Squadron decided to jump into the river. They kept up the tradition and word of mouth spread while friends and relatives began showing up.

It turned into an annual event, organized by Master Warrant Officer Sharman Thomas until two years ago when Buckley took over.

The community event invites all ages to dive in, although Buckley guarantees there’s no pressure.

“No one’s going to be there to throw you in or anything—if you just want to go up to your ankles, that’s fine too,” he said.

Emergency service workers will be on site, just in case, and the fire department will have its rescue boat in the river.

The 26th annual Greater Trail Polar Bear Swim occurs on New Year’s Day at Gyro Park, mandatory registration beginning at 10:15 a.m. until 11:50 a.m. that day.

The swim itself begins with a bang at 12 p.m. sharp. After the swim, hot chocolate and a bonfire will await participants along with a pile of prizes to be drawn. Prizes include two Pacific Coastal Airlines’ round-trip flights to Vancouver.

Every registrant is given a free pass for a swim and relaxing hot tub on New Year’s Day courtesy of the Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre.

Costumes are optional but bathing suits are mandatory. Footwear and extra warm clothing are advised.

Contact Buckley at to register or for more information.

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