What better way to brrrrring in “MMXX” – otherwise known as “Year 2020” – than by taking an energizing plunge into the Columbia River?
The 44 Engineer Squadron invites all brave souls from Rossland to Trail and the Beaver Valley, as well as holiday visitors, to the branch’s 32rd Annual Polar Bear Swim at Gyro Park.
“This is a great fun way to bring in the new year, and if you are suffering from one or two too many libations from the night before, it is a brisk way to clear your head,” suggests Master Warrant Officer Shane Batch.
“The 44 Engineer Squadron has been organizing the polar bear swim for over 30 years now and every year we see many repeat swimmers as well as first timers,” he said.
“What better way to start a new decade with a new yearly tradition? It’s a good year to start too, you will always be able to remember 2020 as your first one!”
The event will be ready-set-go from the Trail beach on Jan. 1 at noon sharp.
To help dippers warm up, like all past years, the squadron will have a big bonfire lit just off shore. Organizers, however, advise participants to dry off quickly and to change out of their wet clothes in the park’s heated washrooms.
This will help to avoid hypothermia.
For more warming-up comfort, members of the local Sea and Air Cadet organizations will be operating the concession, serving up hot food and beverages at modest prices.
There is no cost to take the dip and everyone is welcome, but swimmers under 16 must have a guardian’s consent.
Registration begins at 10 a.m.
Costumes and clever outfits are encouraged, and all participants will be entered for prize draws.
The first Polar Bear Swim in the Silver City, on record that is, was in 1988.
The popularity of taking a dip on Jan. 1 has grown over the years with the squadron’s biggest crowd nearing 200 in 2016. The following year, 91 people took a dip, and last year, 103.
“Every year seems to be pretty different in numbers. I have had swims with 70 swimmers, to swims with 180,” Batch added. “I would love to break that record this year!”
At this point, the long range weather forecast is showing a good chance of snow on Jan. 1, with a low of -0.6 C.
The water temperature last week was a brisk 5.9 C, so that’s a pretty good indicator of what to expect for a dunk on the first day of 2020.
The 44th Engineer Squadron has served in Trail since it was formed in 1947.
Over the decades, members of the squadron have put their skills to work on community projects, responded across B.C. during floods, fires, and other emergencies, and deployed on missions around the world, from Bosnia to Afghanistan.
The squadron has a satellite location in Cranbrook and is part of 39 Combat Engineer Regiment. Soldiers from the unit are trained as combat engineers and engineer officers. Engineers build everything the army needs and ensures that the units can get everywhere they need to go.
They are the army’s experts on road, bridge, and building construction, as well as fortification, boat operations, demolition, and explosives.