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Snowmobiling On Ice




Understanding Ice


Ice is constantly in a state of change; therefore safely snowmobiling over ice depends on a multitude of factors such as the age of the ice, outdoor temperature, the depth of the water and water currents.
  • Never cross cloudy ice; only snowmobile over thick clear ice
  • Snow Covered Ice is an insulator, making the ice warmer and weaker
  • Ice formed over running water such as rivers and streams is more dangerous and unstable than ice formed over standing water such as lakes and ponds

How Thick Does Ice Need To Be For Snowmobiling?


  • 2" or less - STAY OFF
  • 4" - Ice fishing or other activities on foot
  • Minimum of 5" for a Snowmobile

Stopping your snowmobile on ice is difficult. Be sure to drive slowly. Many accidents occur because a snowmobile driver couldn't stop in time after he or she noticed the open water ahead.
Ice is never the same thickness over a single body of water; it can be two feet thick in one spot and one inch thick just a few yards away. The recommended distance is to check every 150 feet when snowmobiling over water, especially early and late in the season when the thickness can change quickly.

When snowmobiling over water bring with you:

  • A cordless drill and tape measure: to check for ice thickness. Be sure you can easily insert the tape measure through the hole made by the cordless drill
  • A throw rope: make a throw rope using a clean, empty plastic milk container stuffed with nylon rope or purchase a throw rope made for this purpose
  • Wear crampons: slip them over your boots for better ice traction
  • Small ice picks: bring a few and put them in easy to reach pockets
  • A flotation jacket

If you fall though the ice when snowmobiling:

  • Don’t strip off your clothes: Winter jackets and clothing trap air and increases your buoyancy
  • Face the Direction you came from: The ice you traveled on was strong enough to support your snowmobile, don’t chance facing any other direction where ice may be weaker
  • Lay your hands flat on the unbroken ice: Use what ever you can to grip onto the ice, such as a knife, screwdriver or ice pick
  • Once your hands are secure, kick your legs and pull yourself onto the ice, covering as much space on the ice with your body as possible. DO NOT STAND UP. Lying flat will reduce the amount of additional weight stress on the ice. Instead of standing, stay horizontal and roll away from the hole towards the direction you came from
  • Above all DO NOT PANIC. Once you are off the ice get to a warm, dry, shelter quickly to strip off wet clothing to avoid hypothermia. Concentrate first on warming your core chest area before warming your arms and legs

If you see a snowmobile fall through the ice:


  • Act quickly. Stay on land if possible and immediately call 911
  • Get them something to hang onto: It takes just a few minutes to succumb to hypothermia. A throw rope is ideal, but anything strong enough to pull the snowmobiler out of the water will do - such as jumper cables or a tree branch
  • While you are getting the rope, talk directly to the snowmobiler. Encourage them stay afloat and not give up. Let them know you’'re there and you're trying to help
  • Never walk out to the hole. If you must reach the opening in the ice, bring a flotation jacket with you. Lie down and roll or slide up to the edge of the opening and spread your body weight over as much surface area as possible
What other ice safety precautions do you recommend?
Please include an email address if it is ok to contact you with followup questions.



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