Ice Safety Tips Before Skating On a Frozen Pond

Eileen and her dad put on their skates while nearby hockey players enjoy the ice. - RMKK Companion

Eileen and her dad put on their skates while nearby hockey players enjoy the ice.


I’m no ballerina on ice but I love getting out on the pond! It makes me feel like a butterfly…and butterflies are free!

Luckily my family and I have access to a pond in Kalispell’s City Park which is maintained by Parks ‘n Recs. Each ice skating season they clear the snow off of the pond with plows and post signs such as “Thin Ice”, or “Rink Open” when it’s safe to skate, or “Rink Closed” when unsafe. This eliminates my worry about whether or not the ice is safe for ice skating.


Eileen skating on Woodland Pond, Kalispell, Montana

Eileen skating on Woodland Pond


However, there have been a few occasions where we have needed to determine the safety of the ice for ourselves without the help of an experienced maintenance crew.


Mallory skating on Woodland Pond, Kalispell, Montana - RMKK Companion

Mallory skating on Woodland Pond, Kalispell, Montana.

Tips for How to Check for Safe Ice

The following tips are not only helpful for ice skating but are also useful if you simply want to explore the surface of a frozen pond or try your luck at ice fishing.

Before venturing onto a frozen pond, check to see if the ice is thick enough to skate on. If possible use an ice auger to drill a hole in the ice. If you do not have an ice auger and the ice is clear, find an angle at which you can see where the depth of the ice ends and water begins.

Here are the meanings of ice thickness:

    • 3″ or less STAY OFF
    • 4″  safe for ice skating, walking, and cross country skiing
    • 5″ safe for one snowmobile or ATV
    • 8″-12″ safe for one car or small pickup
    • 12″-15″ safe for one medium pickup truck or van.

If you can’t see the depth of the ice, use the weather and color of the ice as a guide.

    • Bluish white – safe to skate on
    • Black or clear – very thick and safe
    • Pitted and milky – very unstable
If for any reason, you are uncomfortable with the nature of the ice on the pond, don’t venture out. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Many people have misjudged and wound up falling through the ice into freezing water creating a dire situation of life and death.
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Disclaimer: This information is for entertainment purposes only. Please check your local guidelines before venturing out onto the ice.

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Last updated: 01/15/22

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