Usually when someone breaks through the surface ice on a frozen lake, it’s a dangerous moment. Humans aren’t built to survive lengthy submersion in ice water, and it’s downright painful to plunge suddenly in water that’s hovering around the freezing mark.
But for some seriously #mighty swimmers, dipping in ice water is exactly how they enjoy their sport most, and this past weekend, more than 40 of these unusual creatures descended upon Newport, Vermont. That’s where a 25-meter long swimming pool had been carved out of the 10-inch thick ice that’s covered the massive, 25-mile long Canadian-American lake since last fall.
Swimmers came from nearby Vermont and Massachusetts, but also Washington State, California, Georgia, Maryland, New York, and many other places in between to compete in the annual Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival. This high-energy and intense event amounts to a swim meet in an ice pool, but it’s anything but routine.
Flags of many nations (including Squirrel Nation) lined the far side of the 25-meter ice pool on Lake Memphremagog. Competitors Ted Hirsch (MA), Rick Born (MA), Anne McLindon (MD), and Martha Wood (MA) celebrate their success in the ice the morning after the meet.
First, the weather. Although the region had been teased with the possibility of an early spring the week before with air temperatures flirting with 70 degrees, an arctic cold front swooped in on Friday night to chill things down a bit. By Saturday morning, the air temperature had reached 0 degrees F, and the cold air whooshing out of Canada at 25 to 30 miles per hour lowered the wind chill to a not-exactly-balmy -25 degrees F. Meanwhile, the water in the pool registered at 30 degrees F, which means it was technically not water—think of a runny, lake-flavored Slurpee. As long as the water was moving, i.e. a swimmer was pushing her way through it, it remained water. As soon as stillness descended, it began to ice over again.
With that setting, it was time to kick off the festival with the silly hat costume. Because if you can’t laugh in the face of extreme winter conditions and the peril to life and limb it poses, you probably shouldn’t be signed up for an event like this. Tiffany McQueen, an ardent fan of Mighty Squirrel who currently lives in the Mojave Desert, won the 25-meter head-up breaststroke silly hat event with her Pamela Anderson as a Baywatch lifeguard delivering “Thirst Aid” get-up, which included a beer hat with Mighty Squirrel SPORT in it. Tasty and classy, all rolled into one.
Talbott Crowell of Florida was a close second in his committed and convincing Viking costume; he’d been growing in a gnarly red beard since October to complete the Viking look, and it was spectacular. It’s been proven: 4 out of 5 Vikings recommend Mighty Squirrel Mocha Stout for all your post-pillaging refreshment needs.
With the fun stuff out of the way, it was time to get down to competition. Events included the 25-meter breaststroke, 25-, 50-, 100-, and 200-meter freestyle, 25-meter butterfly, and a 200-meter, four-person relay. Four new “ice pool” records were set in these challenging conditions, making the swims and swimmers doubly impressive. Scott Zornig of California swam the 25-meter free in 14.64, Richard Born of Massachusetts covered the 25-meters butterfly in 15.53, and Ted Hirsch of Massachusetts set the new standard for the 200-meter freestyle at 2:52.24. The “Ice Holes” relay team of Scott Zornig (CA), Kellie Latimer (MA), Janet Manning (MD), and Sam Young (MA) set the new 200-meter freestyle relay record at 2:24.25.
Congrats to all the swimmers who participated in this event. It sure was a #mighty weekend that required some incredibly #mighty swimmers to take part.—Elaine K. Howley, Mighty Squirrel Associate Brand Manager