Polar bear dips: deep freeze doesn't dissuade swimmers

Polar swims and dips took place across Canada today with swimmers braving frigid waters, as much of the country remains locked in a deep freeze.

The New Year's Day tradition sees participants willingly plunge into ice-cold bodies of water, often to raise money for charity.

Up to 2,000 swimmers were expected for Vancouver's Polar Bear Swim in English Bay, where the temperature were in the 5 C range. The Vancouver swim raises money and food donations for local food banks. Other polar swims took place today across B.C. in Deep Cove, Delta, Port Moody and White Rock.

Organizers of this 9th annual Toronto Polar Bear Swim raised $32,000 for Habitat for Humanity — a charity that helps provide affordable housing to low-income families. The swim took place on Sunnyside Beach in the city's west end.

Just west of Toronto in Oakville, Ont., hundreds of other swimmers took the plunge.

Here's a clip from 2008, when CBC's Rick Mercer took part in the Oakville event. Mobile users can access the clip here.

It was a very frigid dip for those brave enough to plunge into Charlottetown Harbour on New Year’s Day.

The annual Charlottetown polar bear swim took place at 10:30 a.m. AT at the foot of Pownal Street.

Environment Canada forecast a high of –16 C for Queens County, with the wind chill making it feel like –27 C.

It’s so cold that polar bear swim organizer Jason Lee was out Monday breaking a hole in the ice.

“The ice is soft right now, but at –17 C Wednesday it should be firm, and we need a hole to get into,” Lee said.

Ontario's recent ice storm put a freeze on Hamilton's swim.

The annual Jan. 1 Polar Bear Dip at Hutch’s on the Beach was cancelled.

Ice banks that formed behind Hutch’s would make crossing into the water potentially dangerous for bathers, said Rick Creechan, the diner’s general manager.

“For safety’s sake, we don’t want to take the chance.”

The yearly event, put on by the East Hamilton Optimist Club, sees dozens of participants plunge into frigid waters and raise money for charity.

Would-be Hamilton swimmers are invited to join the Courage Polar Bear Dip in Oakville on Wednesday.