Seeababes Annika, Stephanie, and Nicole trade their surfboards for skis and head to the mountains for a weekend enjoying the slopes and some soul soothing ice dipping in the famous blue waters of Lake Tahoe.
Stephanie and I skiing at Palisades Tahoe before our ice dip. Photo by Nicole Mcginnis.
Words by Annika Furman
Lake Tahoe’s dizzying mountain views and turquoise blue lakes are marvels. Together they form a home for animals, plants, and people alike where pristine water meets land that extends up to mountains of over 10,000 feet. Lake Tahoe is the biggest alpine lake in North America; from the top of the mountains, it almost resembles an ocean. The Lake is 1,645 feet deep, 22 miles long, and 12 miles wide with water so clear that objects can be seen at depths of 70 feet. The water usually stays at a temperature of around 39 degrees Fahrenheit or 3.8 degrees Celsius.
My two friends Stephanie, Nicole, and I decided to migrate to Lake Tahoe for a few days of skiing and to exercise our Scandinavian love of ice dipping and cold plunging. Both Stephanie and I have Swedish mothers who immigrated to the US in their 20s. We were raised on pickled herring (which neither of us enjoys!), flower crowns on Midsummer, and cold plunges followed by a soothing sauna. Growing up I always found myself swimming in Colorado mountains lakes or Swedish rivers near my grandparent's house in the countryside. All to say Swedes love water, it doesn't matter if it is freezing cold or the warm sun rays are beaming down, you can find Swedes plunging into the cool water.
Stephanie and I looking out at Lake Tahoe. Photo by Nicole Mcginnis.
The Vikings have been ice dipping, cold plunging, and winter bathing (or ‘vinterbadning’ in Swedish) for centuries. During their passages across the oceans and through the Baltic Sea, Vikings needed a way to cleanse themselves. They ice dipped for hygiene, beauty, and health, but it also became a spiritual ritual believed to enhance ‘livskraft’ or life force. This practice now known as ‘saunagus’ was brought from Russia, and it involved a combination of saunaing and cold plunging to enhance mental well-being and purification. However, Scandinavians were nowhere near the first people to ice dip and cold plunge. The earliest written records of cold plunging date back 5,000 years to the ancient Egyptians, and people from China to Greece to the Americas have all been known to use cold water as a healing practice.
After a long day of skiing and peering down at the crystal clear water of the lake from Palisades Tahoe, Stephanie and I decided that we should put ourselves to the test and allow our muscles to rejuvenate in the icy winter waters of Lake Tahoe.
Before ice dipping you should create a plan. To prepare, we packed a change of warm clothes, food, and hot drinks for the post-dip.
How to Prepare for Ice Dipping:
Ice dipping should not be taken lightly. Take it slow and do not push yourself beyond your capabilities. To prepare, here are some of our pre-dip tips from The Outdoor Swimming Society: Dip information by Calum Maclean and Owen Hayman, and Barbara Hernandez Huerta from the Outdoor Swimming Society:
Stephanie creates a plan and decides where to get in the water. She is wearing a Seea Luna Poncho. Photo by Nicole Mcginnis.
- Create a plan of entry. If there is ice, have a blunt item ready to break it. Know where you’re going to enter and exit the water.
- Lay out your warm clothes before entering the water. To make it easier to put them on, lay them out in the order that you would put them on. We recommend using wool over cotton clothing.
- Always have someone outside of the water that can help if need be.
- You can use earplugs and neoprene socks to keep your internal body temperature warmer.
Before entering the water Stephanie and I took several deep breaths in order to center ourselves. We knew our entrance and exit strategies and decided to enter the water where there were rocks that we could sit on and use to get out. Nicole was on standby ready if anything were to happen.
Entering the Lake and Centering in the Cold Water:
Photo by Nicole Mcginnis.
Once we immersed ourselves in the lake, the water felt cold, but with a calm mind and consistent breathing Stephanie and I were able to center ourselves and accept the coldness. We decided to stay in for two minutes. I find that between 40 seconds and 1 minute is the toughest part mentally. Ice dipping and cold plunging are almost more difficult mentally than physically. It is about centering yourself, continuing to breathe, and checking in on your limits. While dipping, I loved to focus on the mountains and beautiful landscape of Tahoe. It allowed me to center myself and be present.
Tips for while you're in the water:
Focusing on breathing while in the cold water. Photo by Nicole Mcginnis.
Enter the water slowly and remain calm.
Continue to breathe consistently and deeply. Focus on your breath.
Do not dip your head underwater.
Know your limits. The more you ice dip the longer you will be able to stay in the water. Start shorter and work up to long ice dips.
If you’re dipping with someone else, support each other!
*Ice dipping can be dangerous. Know the risks and prepare yourself for all outcomes - Read more about COLD SURVIVAL HERE
Getting out after our ice dip:
Post ice dipping with warm clothes on. Photo by Nicole Mcginnis.
Once the two minutes were over, Stephanie and I exited the water and got into our warm and dry clothes. We felt rejuvenated and alive after our dip. It was so beautiful to look over the water and mountains. We felt so fresh and awake the rest of the day, and our post-ski muscles were not sore the next day!
Some things to know when getting out:
Get out quickly and have something on standby to dry yourself off with. We used a Seea changing Luna Poncho.
Have a hot drink ready! I love some Earl Gray tea or hot cocoa.
Move your body around lightly to keep the blood flowing.
Try to avoid cotton clothing. Use wool.
What we wore for our dip:
Stephanie wore The Valentina surf suit in Nectar. It provides a little more coverage and warmth, and the yellow color looked beautiful against the vibrant blue water!
If you’re looking for an option for a little more warmth try the Dara surf suit. The C-Skin fabric provides a little insulation if you’re not fully ready to brave the cold.
Until Next Dip!
Ice dipping and cold plunging can become a wonderful daily practice. Whether you have a lake, river, or ocean nearby, the practice of immersing yourself in cold water feels so grounding and rejuvenating. It is an intentional time to breathe, center yourself, and take time to be present. It was truly a treat to dip in the waters of Lake Tahoe.
Lake Tahoe is located on the unceded lands of the Washoe Tribe. We give thanks to them for taking care of the sacred land for thousands of years.
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