Polar Bear Plunge: the hardiest of the hardy

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

It’s always been assumed that those who live in North Idaho are a hardy lot. The Polar Bear Plunge proves that and more.

Ellen Weissman, the executive director of the Sandpoint Area Seniors, Inc., warms up after taking the plunge. Courtesy photo.

Each year, dozens of brave souls tromp onto the ice over Lake Pend Oreille outside of Sandpoint City Beach and jump through a hole in the ice into the frigid water.

This year 78 participants took the plunge. The event was organized by Sandpoint Boy Scouts Troop #111, which has sponsored the event the past five years.

“The boys wanted to start some troop traditions, since we’re the second oldest troop in Idaho,” said scoutmaster Phil Voelz. “They wanted to do something and make it a yearly event, and wanted to get the community involved.”

Troop #111 is chartered by the Sandpoint Kiwanas Club and is celebrating its 85th year in operation.

“Our first year, we had 15 people,” said Voelz. “This year we had 78. It’s just getting bigger and bigger.”

One participant was Ellen Weissman, the executive director for the Sandpoint Area Seniors, Inc. This was far from her first plunge in icy waters.

“(This was) my 14th jump!” said Weissman. “There were 77 polar bears this year! Amazing! I think I might have been the oldest!”

Way to go Ellen, and all the brave ones who took the plunge.

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