The Sear’s Great Canadian Chill† on Ice

From 2011 to 2016 people gathered on Britannia Pier on Jan 1st for the “Sear’s Great Canadian Chill”, a charity event to raise funds for children’s cancer research.

Then on Dec 30, 2016 this notice was published in the Ottawa Citizen.

Organizers of The Sears Great Canadian Chill — a New Year’s Day polar bear dip at Britannia Beach to help raise money to fight childhood cancer — released a statement on their website and Facebook page last month to confirm both the Ottawa and Toronto events will be cancelled this year because the title sponsor Sears has pulled out.

Ottawa Citizen December 30, 2016

At the time the organizers were saying that the event was merely on hold until a new sponsor could be found.  However, now it is a year later and there is still no word. Sears itself is permanently gone, so they’re not coming back as a sponsor.

Further, both of the official websites and have disappeared, and the CHEO website still lists the details for the 2016 dip (ie not even updated to the abortive 2017 event), so it seems likely that this event is permanently gone.


Swimmers run out of the water during a polar bear dip at Britannia Beach in Ottawa on New Year's Day
Swimmers run out of the water during a polar bear dip at Britannia Beach in Ottawa on New Year’s Day

I was unable to find much coverage of just how many people participated or how much money it raised. Pictures of the Britannia event look like it was dozens at most, and perhaps not even that.

Certainly year to year varied from actual holes cut in substantial ice with ladders and ropes (eg the video), to 2016 when there was no ice to speak of on the river at all (above) and it was just another day at the beach ;-).

Some of the news coverage suggests that the Chill has been a “tradition for over a decade”, or even going back to the mid-90s, but these seem to have confused the Sears Great Canadian Chill with other, similar fundraisers. Most sources cite 2012 as the Second Annual, 2013 the Third, and so on.

Certainly the first Sear’s Great Canadian Chill Dip at Britannia Pier was Jan 1, 2011, and the last Jan 1, 2016. The Blog MegaPixel Travel has some great photos and a video of that first event; they are here, here and here.

3 thoughts on “The Sear’s Great Canadian Chill† on Ice

  1. I jumped in on Jan 1 since at least 2010 for ~5 years. It was running at least 4+ years that I know of before Sears took over. It was run by a Speedo Steve but it was growing, as was the liability. I recall ~ a minus 25 C day, and we felt the cold wind out there on our first jump. I recall the water feeling warm, because it was about 20-30 C warmer than outside air temperature (and wind chill) in the water. That sense of warmth didn’t last long though.

    During a later year, I recall climbing out and looking for my clothes and realized that the makeshift tent that I changed in was subsequently taken over by women! It took a while but I did retrieve my clothes while avoiding hypothermia.


    1. Eric

      Was that at Britannia? and can you find any record of it? or clue I could use to find a record? A couple of media articles refer to a longer period, but not necessarily at Britannia.


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