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Nelsonites kick off 2023 with Polar Bear Swim in Kootenay Lake

The Nelson Daily Staff
By The Nelson Daily Staff
January 1st, 2023

After a few years of celebrating the New Years alone due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of swimmers and spectators flocked to Rotary Lakeside Park Sunday at High Noon to take part in the Polar Bear Swim 2023.

The swim was the first time in a few years since Nelsonites have been able to congregate at Rotary Lakeside Park to ring out old year in favour of the new 2023 year.

The event, which tripled in money raised from year previous, was a fundraiser for co-sponsors Kootenay Co-op Radio and Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society, and raised more than $7700 from cash, online donations and sponsors said organizer Amelie Sauquet-Davidson.

"I realize looking at the photos that we are creating lasting memories for members of the community which continued an incredible tradition," Sauquet-Davidson explained.

" . . . it is such a big part of the West Kootenays culture and we play an important part in it," Sauquet-Davidson adds.

"I felt more energized by the crowd than by my plunge."

Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society organizers said the donations will be used to fund important stewardship and educational projects including lake habitat restoration, wildlife and watershed monitoring and shoreline cleanups.

Swimmers began lining up at the water’s edge minutes before the horn sounded at noon with hundreds of swimmers, including some in costumes, sprinting into the frigid waters of Kootenay Lake, and sprinting out of the frigid waters of Kootenay Lake seconds after jumping into the lake.

Some of the swimmers decided to have a soak a little longer in Kootenay Lake.

Organizers said that approximately 120 people took the New Year's Day plunge and about 350 to 400 people attended the event.

Prizes including a night and breakfast for two at The Sentinel in Kaslo, $200 dinner for two at the Outer Clove, ShoeBox Cinema rental and three family passes to Ainsworth HotSprings will be awarded for the top fundraisers.

There are also prizes for the Best Costume and Top Youth Fundraiser.

For more information go to

Editor's Note: Story was updated January 3, 2023 with information from event organizers.

Once in the water, it didn't take long for swimmers to race back onto dry land. 

Before the countdown started, the Kootenay Co-op Radio Polar Bear was making round for group photos.

Some celebrated the New Year 2023 with a swim in costume.

The Polar Bear Swim 2023 was a tremendous success for co-sponsors Kootenay Co-op Radio and Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society as hundreds of people flocked to Rotary Lakeside Park beach.

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