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Ice Safety

On an afternoon walk yesterday to Freedom Pond I noticed someone ice skating. Skating on frozen lakes and ponds is one of my favorite winter activities (this year I will be rehabbing from shoulder surgery so I’ll be watching from the sidelines). It prompted me to re-publish a portion of a blog that I wrote last year. Please skate smart. A few precautions can be the difference between the best day ever and your worst nightmare.

Before heading out on the ice it is important to check the thickness. As you can see by the chart below anything below three inches should be avoided. Four inches can support ice fishing, walking and skiing, over five inches a snowmobile, and eight to 12 a small car. I want to draw your attention to an important safety tip from the Department of Natural Resources photo below. Double the thickness guidelines for white or snow covered ice!

Often by the time I get on the ice fisherman have drilled holes and can give me information about ice thickness. If however you are the first person in the ice you must measure the thickness. I’m not a fisherman so I don’t own an ice auger. However, a hand held drill or chisel can be used. You will need to take measurements in several locations.

Pay attention to pressure ridges, slush and large cracks. Clear blue or green ice is stronger than white. White has air or snow trapped inside which makes it weaker.

Bubbles in the ice can be beautiful, appearing like a frozen jellyfish at times. These bubbles are actually methane gas. They are created when dead organic materials such as leaves fall into the water. As they decompose they get trapped beneath the surface as the ice freezes creating this trapped gas.

Know how to self-rescue and how to rescue your friend if they fall through the ice. First and foremost call 911 if your partner has fallen through the ice. Find a stick or something you can reach out to them. If you decide skating or biking on lakes is something you feel drawn to do, there are a few pieces of safety equipment you may want to take with you.

  1. Rope to rescue another skater

  2. Ice picks or awls to pull yourself out of the ice

  3. A friend…don’t skate alone.

Skating on wild ice is exhilarating. There is a sense of freedom skating on frozen lakes I can’t experience anywhere else. The colors, clouds, sun, reflections in the ice and ice formations create a environment that fills my soul like no other. The swish of your skates as you glide over the frozen surface is meditative  At times you can hear the ice moan and groan, crack and creak.

If you choose to mountain bike on frozen lakes you will need studded snow tires as well as cleats on your feet. I discovered this the hard way. The first time I rode my mountain bike on the ice I did not have any cleats on my feet. When I went to put my foot down, it slipped quickly taking me and my bike to the ice. A little humbled by the experience but no damage to me or my bicycle.

If you are at all unsure of the ice conditions stay off! Safety always comes first. Check out the link below of skaters in Sweden.


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