Polar Bear clubs brave the cold throughout the west

Scott Schumaker  – September 30, 2004

It’s New Year’s Day, the temperature is 41°, and you’re standing outside, shivering in swim trunks with a bunch of people known as the Boulder Polar Bear Club. A signal is given, and en masse you and your fellow bears start yelling and then leap into Colorado’s Boulder Reservoir. Water temperature: 38º. —James Boone

One of the more curious traditions brought to the West by immigrants of northern Europe, winter swimming events—commonly known as polar bear plunges—are growing in popularity. Some are loosely organized, while others include hot tubs, warming huts, music, and prizes. Nearly all encourage costumes and general zaniness. Not to mention a little faith in your cardiovascular system.

Top polar bear events in the West:

  • Boulder, Colorado (Jan 1; 303/ 494-3348)
  • Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (Jan 1; 877/782-9232)
  • Flathead Lake, Montana (Jan 1; 406/837-5018)
  • Las Vegas, New Mexico (Jan 1; 505/827-0733)
  • Lake Powell, Arizona (Jan 24; 928/645-6577)


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