Safety tips for skating and playing on frozen lakes

By Kristina Proffitt

Ice skating and playing hockey on a frozen lake can be a lot of fun, but it also comes with risks. Find out what you need to know to ensure your safety this winter.

1. Measure the ice. There are many visual cues that can help to determine whether or not it's safe to step out onto the ice, but the most effective method is measuring the ice. You can do this by using an ice chisel, which you stab into the ice until it penetrates through entirely. You can determine the thickness of the ice by how far the rod went into the ice. Also, you can use an ice auger to drill a hole through the ice and measure the depth using a measuring tape.

Skaters should not go out on ice that is less than 3 inches thick. 4 inches can support activities like ice fishing, cross-country skiing, and skating. 5 inches can support a snowmobile and 8 inches of ice is enough to support a car.

2. Use visual cues to determine any potential dangers. Take a visual assessment of the area and be on the lookout for cracks, seams, pressure ridges, slushy areas, or dark areas (this is an indication that the ice is thinner).

3. Consider the color. What is the color of the ice? Clear, blue, or green ice is usually thick enough to skate on, but beware of white ice. If the ice is white, that means there is air or snow trapped inside, which will weaken the ice. Dark ice should also be avoided.

4. The fresher, the better. New ice is typically stronger than old ice. As time passes, ice crystals decay even if the temperature is well below freezing. Skaters should especially be wary of venturing onto a frozen lake in the spring, as this is when the ice will be at its weakest point.

5. Know rescue protocols. You should never go out onto a frozen lake alone and always make sure one of the members of your group stays on land so that they can call 911 in the event of an emergency.

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