With global warming and the extra warm autumn we had here in Alberta, our lakes didn’t freeze as fast or as well as we generally think they should. As a result, we’ve had some bad accidents with vehicles crashing though lake and pond ice. In my February Alberta Outdoorsmen column, I discuss how ice forms on lakes and how snow cover can effect its thickness and strength.
In general, you should not walk on ice less than 10 cm (4 in.) thick, or drive a vehicle on ice less than 30 cm (12 in.) thick. However, ice strength varies with temperature and what may be happening underneath it. Flowing water or upwellings from underwater springs can erode ice that seemingly looks safe on top. As well, when water freezes it expands and ice gets pushed up in pressure ridges across lakes. These can hide ‘traps’ of thin ice.
If you venture on ice, you should be prepared for the worst.
- If in a vehicle, drive with seat belts off, windows at least partially open and doors unlatched to aid in a quick exit if necessary.
- If you break through the ice outside your vehicle, spread your arms as wide as possible, kick your feet to get your body flat on the ice surface, and crawl or roll to thicker ice. Get yourself warmed as soon as possible.
- Always carry a knife, ice pick or spike nails in your parka pocket to help you crawl on the ice.
- Never travel on the ice alone. If you get in trouble, you will need help fast.
In reality, accidents on the ice are few. If you take the proper precautions, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip that helps push away those winter blues.
So, what’s wrong with that?