A guide to ice water swimming
Ice water swimming is a tradition that has become increasingly trendy over the past few winters. It’s a great way of seeking adrenaline and fun. Ice water swimming supposedly has a positive effect on your physical health because it improves circulation. If you expose yourself to cold weather (or water) regularly, you will build a better immune response towards the cold. It is also great for your mental health. You truly disconnect from everything else when jumping into the freezing water. To have a great experience it is important to breathe slowly and be fully aware of your breath. Because of this, many people experience ice swimming as a type of meditation.
The best part is that you are going outdoors and spending time in nature - taking full advantage of what winter has to offer!
Photo: Karoline Fosse
Rules to remember when going out on frozen lakes/rivers/water:
- Make sure that your surroundings are safe.
- If you step on the ice, is it thick enough?
- If you are swimming in a river, are there currents that can pull you under the ice?
- Don’t go alone. You could get a cramp and an extra hand never hurt.
ALWAYS check the circumstances and think twice about what can happen.
Tips to make the experience easy and more fun!
Bring an ax with you. You might have to break through thicker layers of ice.
Wear several layers of wool, from head to toe. You will have a better experience if you avoid freezing before going swimming. Wool is also the best clothing to put on afterward. Wear a thin, soft wool layer as your base layer, a thicker wool layer on top of that, and your winter jacket and pants. (Look up the 3-layer principle)
If you know you are going swimming, put on your swimsuit at home before getting dressed. That way you don’t have to spend time freezing while changing before jumping in.
Stand on your wool socks while undressing. Many people prefer to swim in wool socks, especially if there is an uneven seafloor with rocks etc. It is a lot more painful to step barefooted on a rock when your feet are as cold as ice.
If you take a dip without going under with your head, it could help to wear a beanie. It sounds odd, but a warm head and dry hair actually helps, especially if it is windy
If you decide to dip under with your head you should dry your head off first and put a beanie on quick. You then avoid your hair freezing to ice in the cold temperatures.
When you are back on land - dry off quickly and put on your layers of wool and outerwear right away.
Go swimming on windless days. The wind makes it way colder to get out of the water.
That’s all - now all that is left is having the guts to do it!
Places to go ice swimming in Voss
The best place for beginners to start is lake Vangsvatnet in the city center. You will find lots of places to walk out. There is a beach all around the bay by the city. A comfortable way of getting into ice water swimming.
Lønavatnet is another beautiful lake for a dip. The view of mount Lønahorgi is stunning, but you will have to look around to find a good place to enter the water/ice.
If you drive to Mjølfjell, you may find some natural pools to swim in. Be extra careful when swimming in rivers. You must be aware of currents and ice underwater.
Oppheimsvatnet is a lake with several sites to go ice swimming. On the north-east side of there is a lovely beach. The lake is a few hundred meters above sea level and is very likely to be covered in thick ice.
Demmo at Flatlandsmoen is a smaller lake with several good swimming spots. Go explore!
Granvinsvatnet. If not frozen this is a beautiful lake surrounded by tall mountains all around. Park somewhere along the road and jump in. The seabed is full of pebbles - socks or shoes are recommended.
If you want to swim in the fjords you can drive to Granvin. There is a white sand beach at Fjordparken in Granvin town center. The fjord is seawater that rarely freezes, so you don’t even need a backup ax!
Do you want to make the experience even better? If you are staying at Scandic Voss you will have access to a large sauna. Why not start your day with a cold bath and sauna, before breakfast?
Photo: Karoline Fosse