Ryan Aronson cast a sideways glance at the pool, and knew what was coming. Filled from nearby fire hydrants, the pop-up pool sat in the middle of Alpine Village in McCall. Kids in the crowd delighted in throwing handfuls of snow into the water.
Dressed like an ancient Egyptian, Aronson--a first-grade teacher at Barbara R. Morgan Elementary School--was joined by Scan Jeffries, a PE teacher at the school, who adjusted some gold spray-painted water wings and purple sheet turned toga.
Both were in line for the fifth annual Sharlie's Plunge, part of the McCall Winter Carnival, on Jan. 25.
Every year, a small but brave number of McCall citizens like Aronson and Jeffries pony up $100 each to jump into the freezing cold pool, with money going to MYST (Mentoring Youth, Supporting Teens) and McCall's teen center, as well as supporting POTS Garden Project, a summer program for middle-school students to gain work experience.
Jeffries said he's taken the plunge three years in a row.
"Each year, we try to jump to support the McCall youth," Aronson said. "Between us teachers, we raised over $400."
As far as the toga goes, Jeffries said, "We looked at different wonders of the world [the theme of this year's carnival] and thought Egypt would be the easiest to make into a costume."
Aronson and Jeffries were joined by a third-grade teacher who started at Barbara R. Morgan Elementary last fall (without knowing this would be part of the job), and a special education teacher who managed to get out of the plunge every year until now.
The four danced on the side of the pool to the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" while a few hundred people, including some of their students, cheered. Then they cannonballed into the shockingly cold water, climbed out with stunned looks on their faces and skipped to a nearby hot tub.
The plunge this year attracted almost 30 jumpers and raised more than $4,300. Organizers said that's the biggest number of participants yet.p>On the other side of town at the McCall Golf Course, a very different type of event was taking place. Close to 1,000 people lined the groomed track of the carnival's fifth "Flash Point" Snowbike Race.
Twenty-five racers, mostly from North Idaho and Canada, sped around a quarter-mile of curving track on dirt bikes converted for snow by replacing their front wheel with a ski and their back wheel with a snowmobile-like track.
The revving of the snowbikes ripped into the eardrum and the smell of burnt gas hung in the air, but camo- and baseball cap-clad spectators seemed to love it. To the delight of the crowd, four of the eight racers crashed and piled up, spraying snow everywhere.
Race organizer Ron Dillon said racers compete for trophies rather than a monetary prize.
"A trophy from this race means they're the fastest snowbike racer in the world," Dillon said. "This is the biggest snowbike race in the country."
For Kim Donaca, this was the first race she's been to in two years. Her husband helped pioneer the sport before he was killed in a dirt bike accident in 2011.
"He went into a ravine, head-on. It was bad," Donaca said. "[But snowbiking competitions] used to be him and five other guys. There's so many more riders now, it's really grown. It's phenomenal. ... I cried the first half-an-hour, but I'm good now."
Brock Hoyer, a 27-year-old from British Columbia, won the day's race, taking 60 seconds per lap for eight laps, cruising close to 40 mph.
"I love anything that's with a dirt bike," Hoyer said. "As soon as [Sandpoint-based] Timbersled came up with the great idea of putting a track on a dirt bike, it was the next level for wintertime."