How to know whether or not the icing is safe: 10 Steps

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How to know whether or not the icing is safe: 10 Steps
How to know whether or not the icing is safe: 10 Steps

Walking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, ice fishing (with or without a car), skiing, skating, and playing sports can be dangerous activities if you don't know the weight-bearing properties of ice. There are many ways to measure the safety level of ice, such as observing its color, testing its thickness, as well as taking into account external factors, including temperature, environmental conditions, and general conditions that occur in the area. However, no sport on ice is completely safe. If in doubt, don't move on the ice; in addition, coming too soon or too late can also be dangerous.


Know When Ice is Safe Step 1
Know When Ice is Safe Step 1

Step 1. Understand that ice is never safe

Unseen special conditions or factors can turn seemingly safe ice sheets into dangerous ones. Take all precautions to avoid danger and prepare contingency plans in case something bad happens.

Know When Ice is Safe Step 2
Know When Ice is Safe Step 2

Step 2. Create an emergency safety plan

Tell people where you are going. If something bad happens while you are doing a test or activity, you should have safety procedures in place to save yourself.

  • For starters, you should be fully clothed to deal with the cold. Wear safety equipment, such as a life jacket, if you are on the move or riding on ice. Bring an ice pick to help you grab a pedestal when you fall. Never go alone. Tell people where you are going and when you are going home. This is not the time to do things spontaneously.
  • Prepare spare warm clothes and put them in a waterproof bag. In this way, you can reduce the risk of hypothermia by changing into wet clothes. Other safety equipment that is no less important are emergency blankets, hand and foot warmers, thick socks, spare knitted hats, as well as candles and matches. Bring all of these equipment with you when exercising in winter, even when you are skating outside. See the “Things You Need” section for more information.
Know When Ice is Safe Step 3
Know When Ice is Safe Step 3

Step 3. Understand that determining ice sheet safety depends on a combination of several factors, not just one

Ice sheet safety is determined by simultaneously analyzing the following factors:

  • The visual appearance of ice – its color, texture and features
  • Ice thickness – you can find various ice thickness recommendations based on activity below
  • The external temperature of the ice during certain periods and throughout the day when you are active
  • Snow thickness
  • Depth of water under the ice
  • puddle size
  • Chemical composition of water – is it fresh or salty
  • Weather fluctuations in the area
  • Ice area
Know When Ice is Safe Step 4
Know When Ice is Safe Step 4

Step 4. Choose an ice sheet that has been regularly inspected and declared safe by the authorities

This party could be an inn employee, a club member, a national park supervisor, or a government representative. Ice checking should be done at least once per day. Ask them the procedure if you want to know to feel more satisfied. They must have adequate inspection methods and tools, and are well trained to deal with accidents on ice. This means you don't have to go through the hassle of checking so you feel more secure. However, make sure you have taken all safety measures.

Know When Ice is Safe Step 5
Know When Ice is Safe Step 5

Step 5. Ask local people

If you're not a native of the area, don't make assumptions. Stop by the supermarket, fishing tackle, and ski shop for a chat, or stop by the police or fire department to ask which areas are dangerous and which areas are safe. People are more likely to help you then than to help you when you're in trouble.

Know When Ice is Safe Step 6
Know When Ice is Safe Step 6

Step 6. Observe the ice

Look at the condition of the ice to make sure there are no cracks, shards, weak spots, or abnormal looking surfaces, and identify the color of the ice. You shouldn't rely on your own eyesight. This method is only the first step to determine if the area is indeed safe to be tested.

  • If you see any of the following signs, it's best to skip these advanced steps to get past the ice sheet:

    • Water flows near the tip of the ice
    • Springs that flow under the ice sheets that are near ponds and lakes
    • Water flowing into and/or out of ice-covered water areas
    • Cracks, shards, or holes
    • Ice that has started to melt or melt
    • An abnormal surface you've never seen before – for example, a mound of ice caused by water currents or wind.
  • Remember these words: “A thick layer of blue ice, safe to pass; thin and light ice, better not."
Know When Ice is Safe Step 7
Know When Ice is Safe Step 7

Step 7. Understand the meaning of the color of ice

While it can be a useful indicator, color should not be relied on for granted. For example, ice of any color that is above a stream of water is definitely weaker than ice that is not under pressure. In general, you can determine the condition of the ice sheet from the following colors:

  • Light gray to deep black color – ice that is melting, will appear when the air temperature is below 0°C. This permafrost is unsafe because of its fragile density and cannot withstand the weight. Stay away.
  • White or transparent color – a mixture of snow and water freezes on top of the ice to form a thin layer. Usually, this layer is very weak because it has pores from air pockets in it.
  • Blue or clear color – very dense and strong, safest permafrost. However, stay away if the thickness is less than 10 cm.
  • Mottled and molten ice, or ice that appears to be “rotting” – the color is normal, but the texture is clear. This ice is melting. This layer can be deceiving – the ice may appear thick on top, but is already melting at the center and bottom. This layer usually appears in the spring, and exhibits a brown color that is a sign of decaying plants, soil residue, or other natural material that appears after the ice melts. Don't step on it one bit.

Know When Ice is Safe Step 8
Know When Ice is Safe Step 8

Step 8. Test the thickness of the ice

If you've made observations and feel sure the ice is safe, you need to check the thickness of the ice to make sure it's safe.

  • Do the test with at least one friend (two-person verification system). Put on a shirt or life jacket and use a rope so your friend can pull him up when something bad happens.
  • You should only step on ice that has solid edges. If the piece melts or breaks, the ice sheet is most likely unsafe because this type of ice is the weakest.
  • Dip an ax or pickaxe to make small holes in the ice sheet or use an ice pick (auger, a special tool for punching holes in ice), to measure its thickness. Use a measuring device to determine the thickness of the ice.
  • Learn the safe thickness for ice. There is a recommended thickness measurement to find out if the ice sheet is safe before doing certain activities. (Remember, the numbers below are “recommendations”, not “guarantees”) Ice that is safe to use has a thickness ranging from 10-15 cm. Do not walk on ice that is less than 6 cm thick. However, even 20-25 cm thick ice can be weak if there are invisible factors, such as the flow of water underneath. In this case, the thickness of the ice alone cannot be an indicator of safety because the ice can collapse at any time.
  • In general, the rules for ice thickness are:
    • 7 cm (freshly formed ice) - DO NOT CLOSE
    • 10 cm – suitable for winter fishing, skiing and walking (approximately 90 kg max)
    • 12 cm – can be traversed by snowmobiles or ATVs (maximum approx. 360 kg)
    • 20-30 cm – can be traversed by one car or group of people (maximum approx. 680-900 kg)
    • 30-38 cm – can be used by small pickup trucks or vans
  • The figures above are general recommendations given.
Know When Ice is Safe Step 9
Know When Ice is Safe Step 9

Step 9. Understand that the strength of ice is not always the same everywhere, even over the same area of water

The strength of ice is also affected by various factors other than its color and thickness. Also take into account:

  • The location of the ice: is it over a pond, lake, stream, or is there a current below it? Is there water flowing into or out of the ice? This can be an additional consideration.
  • Water type: is it fresh or salty? Salt water tends to produce weaker ice sheets and needs extra thickness to hold the same weight as fresh water ice sheets. Check out the external links below for extra more accurate information.
  • Season and external temperature: temperature changes constantly. Be aware of the local climate in the area. Ice that forms in the middle of winter is usually stronger than ice in early spring which begins to melt quickly and is exposed to sunlight.
  • Water size and depth: large areas of water take longer to freeze than small areas.
  • The appearance of snow on ice: Snow can warm the ice because it is an insulator; Ice under snow is usually thinner and weaker than ice without snow.
  • Weight on ice: what did you put there? Are you alone or using a vehicle? There is a big difference between the weight distribution of a human body and a snowmobile that a human rides on.
Know When Ice is Safe Step 10
Know When Ice is Safe Step 10

Step 10. Look for alternatives if in doubt

People who enjoy skiing can go to a rink or lake dedicated to the activity; snowmobile riders and skiers can use special trails on land instead of snow trails; pedestrians can stay away from the ice sheet and walk along the path provided. Everyone working on ice must carry emergency safety equipment regardless of the duration of the activity.


  • Two people could safely pass through the faint icy area by moving the canoe between them. Don't forget to bring a paddle. If the ice breaks, you can take the canoe.
  • If you must cross the ice, the best way to do so is to crawl along the ice. Imagine moving a lizard and adjusting it to keep your body weight balanced. It's best to bring a long board or stick. If the ice starts to crack – you'll usually see the mark once or twice – place the stick on the ice to distribute your weight.
  • Understand that trailing vehicles can weaken the ice. The paths traversed must be varied.
  • Watch for people wandering around on their own. If you are someone in authority (representing the school, race committee, etc.), or the person in charge of an event, keep an eye on people leaving the event area and get them back as soon as possible. Make sure there are plenty of area markers posted so that people at the event don't make mistakes and leave the safety zone. In addition to preparing safety equipment, also prepare people who are trained to provide first aid.
  • Playing dog sledding is a little safer because dogs are able to detect cracks in the ice. However, don't take unnecessary risks and be prepared for the unexpected, just like any other winter sport.
  • If you must skate on thin ice, make sure the water below is shallow (about 60-90 cm). If the ice breaks, you'll be wet and cold, but you can still get out of there feeling embarrassed. However, don't try to let the kids do it.
  • Use a drill bit 15 cm or more to punch holes in the clear ice. If the drill bit penetrates beneath the ice, the area may not be safe. Make sure an adult checks it out first!


  • Don't assume that the cold will make the ice safe. This condition can actually make the ice brittle and break more easily than when the weather is hot. Check first.
  • Never drink alcohol while exercising on ice – wait until you get home or somewhere safe. Alcohol can impair your driving skills, as well as slow your reaction and ability to deal with accidents. Alcohol doesn't help with the cold, but it can make things worse and cause hypothermia.
  • Just because the area of ice being tested appears safe, doesn't mean the other areas around it are safe. If you want to move outside the tested area, retest, or limit the area to be used.
  • The snowmobile driver must be careful and not drive too fast – if he can't see far ahead, he could fall into a pothole due to delaying the brakes. In addition, the vehicle has limited traction on the ice so avoiding a pothole suddenly may be impossible. You could just turn around and fall into the hole. Stay above ground and snow.
  • This article is applicable when you are in a cold climate country, such as Canada, parts of the United States, and Russia. If your country does not have extreme winters, all ice sheets should be considered dangerous and you should not undertake any of the above activities without professional supervision, especially from local government authorities.
  • In an emergency, if ice breaks under your snowmobile, don't stop. The snowmobile may be able to glide on water if its momentum is maintained. This happens because the rotation of the wheel hits the water at high speed. Turn slowly to maintain momentum on the ice and reach land. High speed will keep the bottom of the car sliding over the water surface.
  • If you are following a ski or snowmobile trail, do not use a trail over frozen rivers, streams, ponds, or lakes as a shortcut unless the trail is deemed safe by local authorities. Shortcuts are usually taken when a person is tired and just wants to get home as quickly as possible before dark; it's also usually an accident-prone time because you're tired. In addition, exposure to heat all day makes the ice weaken at the end of the day.
  • Don't walk, skate, play, ski, or snowmobile on the ice after nightfall. You can't see anything if something bad happens and there's no help around.
  • Never drive a vehicle through ice unless the glaze has been professionally tested and found to be safe. Even after testing, the ice can still break at any time. If you must drive, minimize the risk by not driving too fast, opening windows (turn on the car heater if you're cold!), and unbuckling your seat belt.
    • Make sure you know how to escape from a sinking car and have discussed emergency safety procedures with other passengers.
    • When driving on ice, slow down, especially when approaching the shore. Why? The weight of the vehicle – whether it's a snowmobile, car, or truck – will compress the ice sheet. As it accelerates, this motion will cause small, but very significant waves on the ice. These waves can bounce as you approach the shoreline. Depending on the weight and speed of the vehicle, even thick ice can break.
    • Do not cross the ice in a vehicle with children unless there is no other way for an emergency. You won't have time to take care of their safety and yourself when the vehicle starts to sink.
  • Never cross unsafe ice sheets on purpose. This will cause disaster for people who follow in your footsteps. Splashing water on the engine can also cause the engine to stop. Several states in the United States have regulations that prohibit snowmobiles from crossing water-covered areas of ice.

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