Wilhelmina Ice Pole Sitting Contest – Vilhelmina, Sweden - Atlas Obscura
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Vilhelmina, Sweden

Wilhelmina Ice Pole Sitting Contest

Locals perched on icy thrones brave frigid temperatures during this bizarre winter tradition. 

Every winter, bundled up, brave-hearted people climb a ladder and settle upon an eight-foot-tall chunk of ice. From their frigid perches, they sit tight, wait, and try not to freeze. Those who manage to stay put are crowned as that year’s Ice Pole Sitting champions.

Contests partake in this truly chilling contest during the Wilhelmina Winter Weekend, which spans a few days and is packed with activities. Traditionally, they only had to remain on the ice for 48 hours. But this year, the stakes were raised. Competitors now must endure 66 hours atop their frosty thrones to win.

Though temperatures that plummet below -22 °F are not uncommon, the frigid environment isn’t the only challenge. Participants are only granted a 10-minute break every few hours. They can’t use phones or other forms of electronic entertainment to pass the time, even as the cold darkness sets in. Sleep deprivation is another tricky hurdle sitters must overcome. Contestants have lost after falling asleep and slipping off their ice poles. Luckily, no one has been seriously injured as of yet.

Clearly, sitting in the bitter cold, literally freezing their butts off, is a mental and physical challenge for the competitors. So why do they even do it? Perhaps it’s the prize money, or maybe they’re just seeking a good old icy boost to the ego. Whatever their reasons, contestants have been eagerly partaking in the annual tradition since 1999.

Know Before You Go

The competition takes place every year during the event Wilhelmina Winter Weekend.