Creating a skating area on a pond or creek takes more than just brushing off snow. It is wise to think about what is going on below the ice. Areas with moving water, such as creeks and rivers, are not stable. Varying water levels and currents below the surface can affect the quality. Hidden springs or pipes can also weaken ice. Be sure, too, that the water depth does not change, as seen with some storm water retention ponds.
Snow is a warning sign, as is the color of ice. A blanket of snow insulates and weakens it. Ice should be blue, green or clear. White ice has snow or air trapped inside it, and is not strong.
Once you have selected an ice surface, mark it off so that everyone knows what areas are safe. Test ice often and in several places to make sure it is still thick and strong. Remember to have a buddy on hand and wear a lifejacket during testing and maintenance.
Stop using the ice once spring thaws begin. Even if ice measures at the right thickness, candling during melting weakens it vertically. It can no longer be trusted.
Minimum ice thickness
|3 inch||7 cm||Unsafe - stay off!|
|4 inch||10 cm||Ice fishing, walking and cross-country skiing|
|5 inch||12 cm||One snowmobile or ATV|
|8 - 12 inch||20-30 cm||One car or small pickup|
|12 - 15 inch||30 - 38 cm||One medium truck, pickup or van|
You can take precautions even before you step outdoors. Tell a friend where you are headed and when you will be back. Especially in remote areas, wear a lifejacket or PDF over your winter clothes. Children, too, should wear a flotation device if they are playing on or near the ice. Remember to keep a watchful eye on them.
Keep your dog on a leash, and if he falls through the ice go for help. If the ice didn’t bear your dog’s weight, it will certainly crack under yours.
An emergency plan protects you if the worst does happen. Like the motto says, be prepared. Always carry safety equipment, including ice picks and staff, a rope, and a small pocket safety kit with a pocketknife, compass, whistle, fire starter kit and cell phone. Talk with friends and family about ice rescues (see sidebar), and do a practice run.
Snowmobiles and ATVs: Keep in mind that more than half of snowmobile drowning incidents take place at night. In the dark, drivers cannot see dangers or open water. Just as with any other kind of driving, mixing snowmobiles and alcohol is asking for trouble.
Cars and trucks: If driving on ice, keep windows open, doors unlocked and turn on your lights. This will help if you need to escape quickly from your vehicle.
By taking precautions, you can enjoy natural ice settings in safety.
It is worth the effort.