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Tips To Keep You Safe While On The Ice

Tips to Keep You Safe While on the Ice

Whether you are a taking your ice-house out for a weekend of ice fishing, snowmobiling across frozen lakes and streams, or spending any time on a frozen lake or stream, the Minnesota DNR notes that you can never really know when ice is safe. You are not able to judge the ice by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature, or whether or not it is covered with snow. Strength is based on all of these factors. In fact, new ice is usually stronger than old ice and the insulating effect of snow can actually slow down the freezing process. The depth of the water below the ice, the size of the body of water, the current, and many other factors also contribute to the strength of the ice. Here are some things you can do to ensure your safety on the ice this winter:

General guidelines for new, clear ice only

2″ or less – STAY OFF
4″ – Ice fishing or other activities on foot
5″ – Snowmobile or ATV
8″ – 12″ – Car or small pickup
12″ – 15″ – Medium truck

Many factors other than thickness can cause ice to be unsafe.
White ice or “snow ice” is only about half as strong as new clear ice. Double the above thickness guidelines when traveling on white ice.

Traveling on ice

  • Check for known thin ice areas with a local resort or bait shop.
  • Test the thickness yourself using an ice chisel, ice auger or even a cordless 1/4 inch drill with a long bit.
  • Refrain from driving on ice whenever possible.
  • If you must drive a vehicle, be prepared to leave it in a hurry–keep windows down and have a simple emergency plan of action you have discussed with your passengers.
  • Stay away from alcoholic beverages.
    • Even “just a couple of beers” are enough to cause a careless error in judgment that could cost you your life. And contrary to common belief, alcohol actually makes you colder rather than warming you up.
  • Don’t “overdrive” your snowmobile’s headlight.
    • At even 30 miles per hour, it can take a much longer distance to stop on ice than your headlight shines. Many fatal snowmobile through-the-ice accidents occur because the machine was traveling too fast for the operator to stop when the headlamp illuminated the hole in the ice.
  • Wear a life vest under your winter gear.
    • Or wear one of the new flotation snowmobile suits. And it’s a good idea to carry a pair of ice picks that may be home made or purchased from most well stocked sporting goods stores that cater to winter anglers. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to pull yourself back onto the surface of unbroken but wet and slippery ice while wearing a snowmobile suit weighted down with 60 lbs of water. The ice picks really help pulling yourself back onto solid ice.
    • CAUTION: Do NOT wear a flotation device when traveling across the ice in an enclosed vehicle!
  • Cars, pickups or SUVs should be parked at least 50 feet apart and moved every two hours to prevent sinking. Tip: Make a hole next to the car. If water starts to overflow the top of the hole –  the ice is sinking and it’s time to move the vehicle.

More Ice Safety Tips found at:


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