Conditions can vary dramatically around any given body of water. Stick to areas you know or get advice from other local riders. Stay safe, and be vigilant.
Measure ice thickness in several locations
Local conditions such as currents and water depths can affect ice thickness. Consult knowledgeable local individuals. White ice has air or snow within it and should be considered suspect for recreational use.
Recommendations for ice thickness are based on clear, blue or green ice:
- 3" (7cm) or less STAY OFF
- 4" (10cm) ice fishing, walking, cross country skiing
- 5" (12cm) one snowmobile or ATV
- 8"-12" (20-30cm) one car or small pickup truck
- 12"-15" (30-38cm) one medium truck (pickup or van)
NOTE: As the ice starts to melt in the spring it turns into candlestick ("rotten") ice and the thickness is no longer a good criteria to evaluate whether its safe or not. Here are some safety tips for spring conditions:
Know the dangers of ice
- Make sure someone is aware where you're going and when to expect you back.
- Never kite on the Ice alone, take a buddy.
- Don't travel too close together.
- Learn about hypothermia and how to treat it (see videos below).
The colour of ice may be an indication of its strength.
- Clear blue ice is strongest.
- White opaque or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice. Opaque ice is formed by wet snow freezing on the ice.
- Grey ice is unsafe. The grayness indicates the presence of water.
Ice Safety Factors
Many factors affect ice thickness including: type of water, location, the time of year and other environmental factors such as:
- Water depth and size of body of water.
- Springs or currents can erode ice thickness from below.
- Fluctuations in water levels.
- Sand bars heat up on sunny days and change ice quality quickly.
- Snow on ice acts as an insulator and prevents ice from forming properly.
- Ice that has thawed and refrozen is less safe.
- Chemicals including salt.
- Logs, rocks and docks absorbing heat from the sun.
- Changing air temperature.
- Slushy Ice is not safe.
- Holes left behind when a hut is moved can swallow a snowmobile or ATV.
- Shock waves from vehicles traveling on the ice.
- Over used trails onto the ice can degrade into holes or very thin ice.
- Pressure cracks can form open water at any time no matter how cold or thick the ice.
- Wind can cause large pieces of sheet ice to break free sometimes miles wide.
- Shore Ice will melt first and create dangerous soft or thin ice.
Surviving a Fall Through the Ice
Let's hope none of our community members find themselves in a situation where they fall through the ice, however it's always a good idea to be prepared, if the worst should ever happen. Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht provides some great tips for surviving a fall through the ice, so be sure to watch the videos below. In addition to Dr. Giesbrecht's recommendations, first thing you can try is to use the power of the kite to get yourself out of the water, so long as it's safe to do so.