Jane Vachon: (603) 271-3211
Mark Beauchesne: (603) 271-3212
December 9, 2003

Safety on Ice

Beware of Thin Ice, Even When Snow-covered

CONCORD, N.H. -- Test that ice before you go out! The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department warns outdoor enthusiasts that thin ice conditions currently prevail statewide. While early snowstorms have left most of New Hampshire's small ponds and the coves of larger lakes covered with an inviting layer of snow, in most cases that snow is covering a thin layer of ice -- much too thin to support a person's weight. In fact, the presence of snow may actually slow the formation of thicker ice, because it has an insulating effect.

"The snow cover on thin ice may make it appear safe, but don't be fooled!" says Mark Beauchesne, Fish and Game's Aquatic Resources Educator. "Remember, there is no 'safe' ice."

Beauchesne recommends testing ice thickness by using a chisel or ice spud to "thump" the ice while you stand safely on the shore. Before you venture out onto any frozen pond or lake this winter, keep in mind these important guidelines for ice safety:

  • Never assume the ice is thick enough to support your weight. Check it
    periodically as you move away from shore. Start at the shoreline and,
    using an auger, spud or axe, make test holes at intervals as you proceed.
    As a rule of thumb (for new, clear ice), there should be a minimum of 4
    to 6 inches of ice to support a few well-dispersed people; 6 to 7 inches
    for small, on-foot, group activities; and at least 8 to 10 inches for
  • If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, stay off it. Don't go on
    the ice during thaws. Avoid honeycombed or dark ice.
  • Be especially careful in areas where ice is generally thinner because of moving water, such as near inlets and outlets, and around wharves, bridge abutments, islands and objects that protrude through the ice.

For a free brochure from Fish and Game called Safety on Ice* (PDF, 107 KB), click here, or call (603) 271-3212.


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