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safest thickness of ice?
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Leslie Thurston
(lesler) - F

Locale: right here, right now
safest thickness of ice? on 01/13/2012 11:52:45 MST Print View

generally speaking, what's considered the minimum thickness for safe travel/recreational activity on ponds and lakes? while i realize spring-fed H20 sources are differ from their water-sourced counterparts, it's with recent temp. swings that i'm questioning the integrity of the ice. ice fisherman whom drilled revealed 3-4 ", but the ice is soft, laced with cracks and the suface ridiculously choppy. my skates are unusually challenged trying to purchase-- most notably when quickly changing directions-- but not limited to. the sounds from underneath attest to high levels of activity below. (gurgles, churns and indescribable boisterous noises that give me high blood pressure upon hearing them). while i understand these observations to be a relatively normal characteristic of the ice-making process, i still question the depth of what's safe? again, the temps. having been so irregular, seems to me the ice has lost what little strength it once had? thanks. lt

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: safest thickness of ice? on 01/13/2012 12:16:05 MST Print View

Lake ice usually isn't as smooth as you would expect. A skating rink or arena can control the temperature and expansion, and they use the Zamboni to even it all out. As the ice expands it has to go somewhere, usually buckling and creating small but noticeable ridges. The shoreline will usually have the thicker ice but more of uneven surfaces. Avoid areas with running water if possible as the movement restricts the freezing process and therefore thinner ice. 4" should be safe to walk on, but I would be wary if there's a lot of bubbling noise going on.

Check this website for a good rundown on ice safety:

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Increasing ice thickness on 01/13/2012 12:38:30 MST Print View

Lake ice can be somewhat smooth IF there was no snow on top. Once you get snow on top, you often get really bumpy surfaces or worse.

Here's a trick used on the North Slope for building ice roads: Drill a hole through the ice with an auger. Keep running the auger. It acts like a pump, pumping water from under the ice. The water will spread out onto the surface of ice.

The good news: That water on top will be level and fill the low spots. Also, water on top freezes MUCH faster than water on the bottom of the ice - that's why they do it repeatedly to build ice roads for very big rigs. In cold temps they can get a 10-foot thickness of ice in a few weeks of effort.

Most effective if you plug the auger hole so less water drains back. Maybe you could use snow to create a berm around the hole. Or pre-freeze a plug of ice in the bottom of a bucket and cover the hole with that.

Move over, typically with about a 10-foot radius / 20-foot hole spacing and repeat. Until you have the road, hockey rink or airstrip size you want. Come back in a few days and skate. Or repeat.

You know how to repair a crack in an ice road? With a pitcher of water. It works amazingly well with fresh water into frozen salt water at -40 degrees.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: safest thickness of ice? on 01/13/2012 13:37:14 MST Print View

I grew up on a lake and we used to wait for 4" 6" we felt warm and fuzzy.

depended on the year how the surface was. we used to get some really kickass clear/black ice some years. others it would be grey/blue and more cloudy with more texture. snow definitely messes it up unless you shovel it off quick since it insulates and makes the surface warmer.

we tried pumping water onto our "rink" once and it just created a double layer that sucked. i think we did too much water, so you'd have to go slow.

funny thing is i skate a lot better on lake ice with some texture than rink ice.

early in the season be really careful around shore and around rocks.. even if they are submerged a bit.. they heat up and create thin/soft spots.

Christopher Yi
(TRAUMAhead) - F

Locale: Cen Cal
Re: Re: safest thickness of ice? on 01/13/2012 13:54:39 MST Print View

Went to Little Lakes Valley and South Lake (by Bishop) on New Years Day, and there was a few lakes smooth enough to skate on. No bubbling noise, but interesting. My friend was filming in vivid blue/green, so the ice looks thinner in the video.

Can't seem to get embed to work.

Edited by TRAUMAhead on 01/13/2012 13:56:29 MST.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Frozen lake on 01/13/2012 15:12:04 MST Print View

I grew up on a lake that would freeze every few years; once in a great while helicopters would even land on it and most of the lake would be open for up to 15,000 people from neighboring villages to enjoy...
It seems like there were many variables, and I would not give a number of inches, personally. I mainly posted because this made me think of the sound that comes from ice cracking way below the lake and what an incredible sound that is. Hearing it is almost akin to feeling an earthquake and realizing how little we are. This just brought back memories...

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: safest thickness of ice? on 01/13/2012 15:13:51 MST Print View

yanked from a guide book written, but never published, on how to walk across alaska.
i might add, this info has worked 100% correctly. your mileage may vary.
if things look edgy, is easy enough to tow an alpacka raft.
the fellow who taught me this stuff is quite the first rate northern canadian.

River Ice/Aufiess, ... use common sense and stay away from the leading edges where falling in will get one sucked under. Note from afar that edges are often radically undercut. Keep off where it’s rotting, back up if it’s warranted. If one punches through, one is G-o-n-e. This northern gift stays with us most of the season. Feel free to make good miles on it, savor the thunderous crashes at night as it settles. It’s great stuff.
What does not work well is when overflow (water) is on top of the ice. It is just too slippery, it takes only a bit of side load, and one rides the chute. Very dangerous.

There won’t be many frozen lakes to deal with, but courtesy of David Langford, Inuvik, this is a quicky on them : The ice can stick to the bottom quite firmly if the lake freezes all the way down. There may be water over hard ice in that instance. The author thinks it’s Ok to walk on this stuff even partially rotting, because one can only fall in about as deep as bouyantcy will allow, and it’s an easy crawl out. Or, ice can freeze xyz thick, and only stick to the bottom at the edges, while the center section floats up on spring’s rising waters. This will give us submerged edge ice, perhaps a small gap, and then a solid floating pan. By the time the edges start popping up, one is looking at perhaps not such a fine idea to be walking on that particular lake. But it may still be possible to effectively walk rotting edges keeping to waters less than 4’ deep. All lakes do not melt at the same time in a given area by any means. In all cases pay particular attention to those places where creeks enter and leave the body of water.

and what's with those losers at capping on Andrew ????

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: safest thickness of ice? on 01/13/2012 15:34:13 MST Print View

>"we tried pumping water onto our "rink" once and it just created a double layer that sucked. i think we did too much water, so you'd have to go slow."

Jake: Yeah, it's easy to overdo it. It only works well when it is very cold and you have to wait for the new layer to freeze solid. Sometimes less is more.

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Safest thickness of ice? on 01/13/2012 16:19:33 MST Print View

There's an old poem about this (author unknown) that we memorized as children. It has always worked for me.

One inch, stay off

Two inches; one may

Three inches; small groups

Four inches, OK

Edited by wandering_bob on 01/13/2012 16:21:24 MST.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
ice safety on 01/13/2012 18:37:30 MST Print View

Does this help?