How Much Ice is Enough?

It’s already 2013 and several regions in Ontario are covered in snow but that doesn’t mean the lakes and waterways are safe for travel. Snowmobilers and ice fishers should make sure to check the thickness of the ice before venturing out on a lake.

Here are some recommended guidelines (from the State of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) for minimum ice thickness on a lake. Keep in mind that these guidelines are for new, clear, solid ice only and several other factors, such as snow cover, currents and temperature, can cause ice to be unsafe. takes no responsibility for the validity of this data. Remember, no ice is without some risk – be careful!

It is very important to keep in mind that not all lakes have new clear ice on them. New clear ice is created during cold temperatures absent of any snow. When the temperature fluctuates and the ice thaws and refreezes, white ice is formed, also referred to as “snow ice”. This type of ice is usually only capable of handling half of the weight of new clear ice recommended in the guidelines above. It is crucial to not only check the thickness of ice on the lake but also the quality of the ice.

If you are going to be driving your car or small pickup on the ice, it is also recommended that you park it at least 50 feet from any other vehicles and move it every few hours to prevent sinking. It is also not a bad idea to drill a hole with your ice auger next to the vehicle. If the water starts to overflow from the hole that means the ice is sinking and you should move your vehicle immediately!

Another thing to keep in mind is that just because the ice is thick enough in one place, that doesn’t mean that the entire lake is safe to travel. Ice can be over 2 feet thick in one place and reduce to 1 inch thick a few yards away.

Have fun on the ice but always keep safety top of mind!

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