Ice swimming in Lake Placid?

From left, Ruslan Sab and Andre Luzetski enjoy cross-country skiing on Mirror Lake the morning of Friday, Feb. 16. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

Two Ukranian expatriates cross-country skiing on Mirror Lake Friday morning, Feb. 16, were curious as to where they could go swimming outside.

Not in Lake Placid, I said, adding that there may be some open water in Saranac Lake, knowing that the ice on Lake Flower has been slow to freeze all the way with the warm weather we’ve had this winter.

The two men — Ruslan Sab, an electronic engineer living in Pennsylvania, and Andre Luzetski, a bartender living in New Jersey — are originally from the city of Lviv in western Ukraine and moved to the United States about 10 years ago.

They asked me to cut a hole in the Mirror Lake ice so they could go swimming. I said I couldn’t do that since I was there at the base of the Lake Placid Toboggan Chute, as a newspaper reporter, to interview North Elba Park District Manager Matt St. Louis as he prepared to open the attraction later that evening.

Co-worker Lee Jopling was nearby, shoveling snow off the two toboggan slides so St. Louis could spray water on them and build up the ice. With the sound of a shovel scraping against the ice nearby, the two cross-country skiers talked about Lake Placid.

Sab and Luzetski were on vacation, visiting Lake Placid for the third winter in a row.

“We want to come back in the summer,” Sab said. “It’s nice here.”

“We are enjoying the Olympic atmosphere and the spirit,” Luzetski added.

Asked what their favorite part of Lake Placid was, they said ice skating and visiting the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center in Wilmington.

“Everywhere,” Sab said. “Lake Placid is the best.”

“Each spot is good. The best in the world,” Luzetski added.

Ice swimming in the Adirondack Park isn’t an activity promoted by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, the destination marketing and management organization for Lake Placid and Essex County, Hamilton County, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. ROOST operates the visitors bureau on the first floor of the Lake Placid Conference Center on Main Street.

Visitor Service Manager Sharron Miller said Wednesday, Feb. 21 that she’s never been asked about winter swimming.

“Indoor swimming, yes, but not outdoors,” she said.

When I told her about my encounter with Sab and Luzetski, she said, “That’s a first one.”

Sab and Luzetski told me that ice swimming is a regular activity in Europe. Researching the topic, I found that it’s popular in the Nordic countries of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark; the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; and Eastern European countries such as Ukraine and Russia.

There’s even an “https://internationaliceswimming.com/” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>International Ice Swimming Association, which has the vision of ice swimming becoming a Winter Olympic sport, according to its website. The IISA defines ice swimming as swimming in water temperature of 41 degrees F “unassisted, with a silicon cap, pair of goggles and standard swimming costume.”

And there’s an International Winter Swimming Association, which is holding the 2024 Winter Swimming World Championship 2024 from March 4 to 10 in Tallinn, Estonia. Tallinn also held an Iceswim Festival in early December.

Ice swimming is different than polar bear plunges, which are popular in the United States and Canada. The town of Long Lake, for example, held its Feeling Long Lakey Polar Bear Plunge on Dec. 30 at the town beach, with 44 plungers raising more than $7,600 for the Wounded Warrior Project.

This week, Newport, Vermont is hosting the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Festival, with competitions from Friday, Feb. 23 to Sunday, Feb. 25. The event is hosted by the Memphremagog Winter Swimming Society. Newport is located on the east shore of Lake Memphremagog in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

Will ice swimming catch on in Lake Placid with residents and visitors? Will we ever see a Lake Placid Winter Swimming Society? Could this village eventually become the Ice Swimming Capital of the U.S. — perhaps the official training ground for a future Olympic sport?

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, maybe an entrepreneur in the Olympic Region — with a bubbler at their boathouse on Lake Placid lake, perhaps — could charge admission for visitors to take winter dips before they relax in a sauna.

Starting at $1.44/week.

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