January 27, 2022 – Concerns over COVID-19 safety and extreme weather forecasted for Saturday, January 29 have led to the cancelation of the 2022 Polar Bear Plunge at Chetola Resort. As the centerpiece of the annual Blowing Rock WinterFest, the Polar Bear Plunge has often taken place in very cold temperatures, but potential for some blizzard-like conditions and extra impacts from COVID-19 have tipped the scales.
In a Wednesday night email to the Chamber of Commerce, owner of Chetola Resort, Kent Tarbutton, expressed frustration over the necessary measures. “The 9:00 am temperature will clock in with a wind chill factor of -8. We found little choice when considering the additional COVID spread factor, the frostbite potential, and our attempt to keep people protected.”
“Safety is always a top priority at the Polar Bear Plunge,” says Suzy Barker, Event Director for the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and coordinator of Blowing Rock WinterFest. “Every precaution is taken and when temperatures are very cold, we have participants come to the dock in smaller groups so they spend less time waiting to jump. The need to keep participants together indoors more is a special concern for public health right now, and snow combined with high winds raises issues of visibility and safety for participants and attendees alike, so we understand Chetola’s decision to cancel.”
Other Blowing Rock WinterFest events and activities are still on for this weekend. Ice carving demonstrations in Memorial Park, Curling Exhibitions at the Blowing Rock School Gym, and the Beer Garden on the Chamber of Commerce lawn are among a calendar full of various activities and restaurant specials. More details can be found on the official event website: BlowingRockWinterFest.com.
“We appreciate the generosity and support of this year’s Polar Bear Plunge participants,” Suzy Barker added. “We will be communicating with them regarding registration fees and refunds.”