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010210 polar plunge one
Hundreds of people scramble in and out of Flathead Lake during the Polar Bear Plunge at Woods Bay on Friday. The dip only lasted a few seconds for most participants, many of whom were already soaked from a cold rain. Photo by TOM BAUER/Missoulian

On Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, for the 23rd year, brave people – both young and old – will throw themselves into the frigid waters of the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. Woods Bay is home to the Flathead Lake Polar Bear Plunge, where on New Year’s Day people flock to be bold and be witnesses. The Raven is the official host and sponsor of the event and the owners and staff always look forward to starting the year off with a bang, or brrrr in this case.

Registration begins at 10 a.m. at The Raven. Food and drinks will be available then. All participants are asked to sign in before they jump for the record book, and T-shirts will be available for purchase. The Polar Bear Plunge parade begins at 1:45 p.m. leading the courageous plungers to the shore. The air and water temperatures will be on display, giving participants a chance to back out and retreat to the fire pits to stay dry and warm. The bold remain. The countdown begins, and at 2 p.m. the waters of Woods Bay come alive with the thrashing and splashing of the plungers and their screams of both shock and delight. After the plunge, participants and spectators are encouraged to celebrate the new year together around one of many fire pits, under the heated tent or in The Raven.

A friendly reminder, everyone needs to bring towels and warm clothes and shoes for after the jump. Football games will be on the TVs and The Raven will be serving food and hot (and cold) drinks all day. Parking is at a premium in Woods Bay so an early arrival and carpooling are highly encouraged. The Polar Bear Plunge will take place rain, snow, sleet or sun.

Plunging isn’t the only way to participate; area scuba divers can make their first decent of the year into Flathead Lake. If you are interested in diving please contact Big Horn Divers at 406-752-4970 for equipment rental. You must be certified to dive. Also, the plunge brings the diehard Flathead Paddlers Club out for a trip across the bay to watch the festivities from the water. If you are interested in joining the paddlers call Ed Hopkins of the Flathead Paddlers Club at 406-837-6869.

The Islander Inn, directly across from The Raven, offers great discounts to both spectators and participants. Visit the website at sleepeatdrink.com for more information.

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