Icy waters don’t stop students


ZOE STERN/The Vermont Cynic

Students run into Lake Champlain at 7 a.m., Nov. 20, 2019.

Snow falling and 30-degree temperatures on a brisk Wednesday morning didn’t stop 17 UVM students from jumping into Lake Champlain.

This occurrence, which happens two to three times each week, was started by two international students studying abroad at UVM.

Alexander Asplund is from Sweden and Emil Piesold is from the U.K. These students are joined by friends they met at UVM.

The tradition began for Asplund back home in Sweden and was something that he and Piesold quickly connected over at the beginning of this semester, Asplund said.

At 7 a.m. on this particular chilly Wednesday, Nov. 20, some members ran in and out of the water, shouting from the cold, while others stayed in peacefully for minutes, mediating.

Piesold, who was one of the members who stayed in the lake the longest, sat calmly in the water.

“I go into it partially as a mindfulness practice because I want to work on my mental health and my focus, attention and presence,” Piesold said. “I have found this to be a really good way of doing it because it naturally draws you the present. It forces you to focus.”

Asplund utilizes his time in the water to take a moment to think. He focuses on how his body is reacting, especially to the cold, he said.

“I try to focus on the cold and how my body tries to keep me warm and alive in that sense,” Asplund said. “I think it’s a cool feeling to feel how your body is really pushing itself to make blood pump through your veins, to really keep you warm.”

These trips to the lake, which began earlier in the semester, take place throughout the week, often at 7 a.m., so students can attend before classes start, Asplund said.

As the colder weather approaches, the group hopes to continue, though there may be complications, Piesold said.

“The main concern is that when it gets frozen over we would struggle to make a hole, but we will have to see how it goes with that,” Piesold said. “We plan to go consistently the whole year. It seems to be making people happy, and I don’t want to stop that.”

Carissa Finnerty, a first-year who participated Nov. 20 for the first time, said her initial reaction to the cold water was that it was hard to breathe, but it quickly turned to exhilaration, she said.

Finnerty found out about this after meeting Asplund through the Outing Club, she said. She used the opportunity to get outside and to destress.

“As a Girl Scout, I used to do the polar plunge at camp, and I remember the feeling of waking up early and going in the cold water, and it felt amazing,” Finnerty said.

Taking time to do this is something important, Asplund said.

“Every morning we do this is an awesome day,” Asplund said. “It’s really the best start to my day.”

On top of jumping in Lake Champlain, the crew often bikes down from campus to North Beach, Asplund said, though in this cold more of the crew opted to drive down.

Piesold encourages anyone who wants to try this to join them.

“If you want to come, it’s super inclusive,” he said. “Anyone is welcome. There is no pressure.”

Around Nov. 20, the temperature of Lake Champlain was about 44 degrees, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

By Dec. 1 the temperature dropped to below 42.5 degrees and will continue to drop further, making for even colder morning dips.