When is it Safe to Ice Skate on a Lake?
Ice skating outdoors is a fun winter hobby that can keep you fit and active and keep you from getting that dreaded ‘cabin fever’ during wintertime. Ice skating is also a sport the entire family can enjoy, as children can learn to skate once they have learned to walk properly. Spending a day on the ice is a great way to get the entire family out of the house and in the fresh air and enjoying a winter afternoon together.
However, how do you know when it’s safe to skate on ice and when it may be too thin or too melted to support your weight? This is a very important question as falling through the ice into freezing water can cause hypothermia within minutes and because a person may be all bundled up in winter clothes when this happens, they may not be able to swim safely to the surface and may drown.
The first thing you need to consider is if there are any warnings posted about the ice. Never ignore these warnings or assume that you know better! They may be posted by those who have tested the ice or who are experts at determining its thickness.
If you don’t see warnings, you need to observe the ice to see if there are signs that it may be too thin or too melted. If you see water moving under the edge of the ice, it’s too thin. When there is water flowing under any part of the ice, it’s too thin. You may notice this in spring-fed lakes and bodies of water. Water moving means that there is still room for it under the ice and when ice is thick all the way through, water cannot move.
Look for cracks or breaks in the ice. These too are signs that the lake or body of water is not yet completely frozen. Cracks or breaks compromise the strength of ice and can cause it to break apart completely so that you can fall through, even if the ice itself is very thick.
Ice that has thawed and refrozen is also compromised. The refrozen surface is not one complete block of ice but a layer of ice over another layer. Note if you see any signs of this, including ice that is a different color in any area.
Light grey, white, or opaque ice is too thin. These color may be caused by air in between pockets of ice or ice that has thawed and refrozen. Blue or clear ice is the best as this is the thickest ice.
Remember that when in doubt, you want to avoid the ice completely. Never take chances being on ice if it seems too thin or if you cannot test it to ensure its safety.