The year 2018 is a bit of a milestone for Ron Stetson.

"I'm turning 50 this year, so I made a bucket list of 50 things," Stetson said. "I told myself, 'I'm going to do this.'"

And that's how Stetson, in nothing but shorts and a red T-shirt, wound up willingly running into freezing water along with hundreds of others during the Boulder Polar Plunge on New Year's Day.

"It was cold," Stetson said as he stood trying to dry off on the beach of the Boulder Reservoir as temperatures hovered in the 20s. "I got to the middle and I was like, 'Oh my God.'

"But now the sun is out. It's an awesome feeling."

Participants in the Boulder Polar Plunge make their way out of the Boulder Reservoir during the benefit for the American Cancer Society on Monday.
Participants in the Boulder Polar Plunge make their way out of the Boulder Reservoir during the benefit for the American Cancer Society on Monday. (Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer)

The Polar Plunge — which benefits the American Cancer Society — made its return to New Year's Day on Monday after being canceled in 2016 and taking place on Jan. 7 in 2017.

In addition to first-timers like Stetson, the event saw the return of many of its regulars, including James "Booboo" Wilde, who took the New Year's plunge for the ninth time.

"It's the adrenaline," Wilde said. "It's a rush for us lazy people. You aren't actually risking your life, but when you hit that water you get that rush all the same."


Wilde stood out in the crowd not just because of the eerie calm he exuded as a veteran of previous plunges, but also because he was wearing a flesh-colored body suit.

"I just go with whatever feels right," said Wilde, who in previous years has dressed up as a purple alien, a genie and a dragon. "I change every year."

Wilde said his costume this year actually was made up of four layers of body suits, but that wasn't necessarily about trying to keep warm.

"It's mainly because this top would be transparent if it was wet," Wilde said. "Nobody wants to see that."

Another outfit that caught attention was the University Oregon T-shirt that former University of Colorado defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt wore. But even though Leavitt was wearing the colors of the team he left the Buffs for, he still drew some CU chants as he took his place in line for his first-ever Polar Plunge.

"We love it in Boulder," Leavitt said. "You can't beat this."

Leavitt is no stranger to dunking himself in the waters of Boulder, having once taken the Buffs to Boulder Creek to cool off one summer. But as a screaming Leavitt noted as he ran out of the freezing water, this was not the same.

"It's definitely not summer," Leavitt said. "I must be out of my mind."

Once the plungers got out of the water, many headed straight for a warming tent, where they indulged in pizza, hot beverages and beer.

As they toweled off, Julie Pacholik of Vermont reflected on her first Polar Plunge beside her fiancé, Dave Majzler, who was raised in Boulder.

"I've been wanting to do this for five years," Pacholik said. "It was exhilarating."

Majzler said he and Pacholik will be getting married this year, so they found it only appropriate they take the Plunge before they take the plunge.

"It was a good way to ring in 2018," Majzler said. "First bad decision of the new year."

"Um, best decision," Pacholik quickly countered.

Mitchell Byars: 303-473-1329, or