FoKLSS staff member Joelle Burnie (left), with the Nelson Polar Bear and KCR staff member Amelie Sauquet, ready to take the plunge on January 1st. Photo: Submitted

FoKLSS staff member Joelle Burnie (left), with the Nelson Polar Bear and KCR staff member Amelie Sauquet, ready to take the plunge on January 1st. Photo: Submitted

Nelson’s polar plunge will make a difference

Organizers are hoping to surpass the record of 100 swimmers at this year’s event on Jan. 1

Have you ever wanted to jump into Kootenay Lake to ring in the new year? No? Well you might want to start — not only does it offer incredible health benefits, it can also have a tremendous impact on your community.

On Jan. 1, the Nelson Polar Swim will be taking place at Lakeside Park in Nelson, where you can join hundreds of swimmers and bravely plunge into freezing cold water in support of two local non-profits — the Friends of Kootenay Lake Stewardship Society (FoKLSS) and Kootenay Co-op Radio (KCR).

By taking the plunge, or sponsoring a swimmer, you’ll be supporting important stewardship projects in our region, including wetland restoration and beach cleanups, as well as species and water quality monitoring. These initiatives all help create a healthy and clean lake for future generations. You’ll also help power your local radio station, by helping to upgrade KCR’s broadcasting system, and broadening the station’s reach throughout the region.

“One of the greatest things about the Nelson community is how collaborative and supportive it is,” says Joelle Burnie, FoKLSS environmental outreach co-ordinator.

“This event is such a great way to both appreciate and be part of local initiatives. Kootenay Lake suffers from pollution, pressures from development, and the impacts of climate change. By participating in an event like the Nelson Polar Bear Swim, you’re not simply doing a cold plunge — you’re ensuring a magnificent lake thrives for current and future generations. That’s something really cool to be part of.”

You can sign up to take the plunge and donate to plungers and their teams by visiting

Local businesses are also putting together teams and taking part, including Beauties Pizza and The Kootenay Coop.

“The event has many sponsors and partners — we’re thrilled to see such great support from local businesses,” says Amélie Sauquet-Davidson, KCR’s advertising and sponsorship rep and Polar Bear Swim organizer.

“I want to give a special shout out to our two Ice Sponsors: Terratherma Geothermal Heating and Plumbing Ltd., and Ellison’s Market. Maintaining an independent and vibrant community-powered radio station that reflects the unique spirit of our region is hard work, work that is only possible with the support of the West Kootenay community, including our wonderful independent businesses.”

For those a bit daunted by the chill, there will be hot chocolate, coffee, chili, and medical staff.

“If you don’t plan to take the plunge, at least come cheer on your friends and family!” urges Sauquet-Davidson.

Feel free to wear your favourite costume — volunteers are hoping to beat the record of 100 swimmers. Prizes will be given out to participants who raised the most money, as well as those with the best costumes.

Thanks to generous sponsors, there are some great prizes this year. Top individual fundraisers can win one night and a delicious breakfast for two at The Sentinel in Kaslo, a $200 gift card to enjoy dinner at the Outer Clove in Nelson, one free rental for the ShoeBox Cinema in Nelson to enjoy a private screening for up to 20 people, three family passes for Ainsworth Hot Springs, or four day passes donated by the Nelson Nordic Ski Club.

Sauquet-Davidson said Kootenay Co-op Radio is undergoing some big changes.

“Our antenna will soon move to the top of Elephant Mountain, and the station’s basement will become a cultural hub, transforming into an intimate music venue. While grants and subsidies are important in making these important initiatives possible, every penny counts — that’s where a generous (and brave) public comes in.”

For more information, reach to the Polar Bear Swim Team at or visit