Skating on Thin Ice at 3C

January can be our best month for lake ice so thick you can stand on it. The first month of the year we often have sub-zero temperatures, down to -20C. The lake surfaces become ice over a foot thick.

Experts say the ice must be at least 4″/10cm before it is safe to walk on.

Walking and Skating on Ice Photo: R. Cuningham

Like marriage, ice walking is not to be undertaken unadvisedly or lightly.

Just Past the Watery Ice Photo: R. Cuningham

Our weather has been “warm,” only 3C, not below zero many days. To my midwestern woman’s eye, the ice in these pictures did not look safe, because of the puddle areas which are evidence of warming. There were a dozen people skating, walking their dogs and strolling on the ice. However, the mouth of the Yahara River which empties into the lake 50 meters away was not frozen, an open water channel wove 20m by 5m through the lake ice there. This area would not be my first choice for an afternoon on the perhaps frozen lake.

I very much err on the side of caution. In November 2022, a friend went ice fishing (too early) and went through the ice. He was lucky enough a paramedic was fishing nearby and rescued him. Going through the ice is not the worst part. Although it’s scary and the water is darn cold, it’s hypothermia that can be deadly. When the body’s core temperature goes under 35C (95F), you’ll need to warm up quickly or within minutes your life is at risk.

When in doubt:

-drill to check ice thickness
-walk with a friend
-wait until the ice is thicker

I fell through the ice of a creek when I was 12. Since only one lower leg got wet and my friend’s house was nearby, I was lucky and I did not get hypothermia that day.

Have you experienced hypothermia or at the other end of the spectrum, heat stroke?

¡Olé! –Rebecca

Rebecca Cuningham

35 thoughts on “Skating on Thin Ice at 3C

  1. It’s been so long since I’ve been anywhere that gets cold enough to snow, much less freezes a lake, but this is all good information to have.
    Ice will quickly remind you why it’s so important to respect nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ‘Like marriage, ice walking is not to be undertaken unadvisedly or lightly.’ Sound advice! When I was young, the local lake occasionally froze enough to be able to walk and/or ice skate on it. I loved walking on the ice – but only once the council had declared the ‘ice walking season’ officially opened. There are times, when you really, really want to listen to the authorities.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A timely warning. We rarely get ice thick enough to walk on in the UK, but just before Christmas four little boys died after going through the ice. How I feel for their families. Two were brothers. One apparently tried to rescue the others, but he died, too. Most probably hypothermia.
    And I remember my uncle telling me that when he was a boy, several boys from the local Grammar School died after skating on the frozen river.
    I never forgot that tale, and have been cautious ever since, and warned my children, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your stories; cautionary tales. I was skating on a creek when one foot went through the ice that day. I was extremely lucky at the outcome. When I got home I was roundly scolded by my father and only went to the local park skating rink after that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve never been on ice outdoors, only in climate-controlled, ice skating rinks. I don’t think I’d even bother trying to skate, let alone walk on, ice outdoors, as the risk and my lack of experience in colder weather isn’t worth it. Looks beautiful, but I’d much rather admire it from the distance!

    Liked by 2 people

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