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Some must read tips before ice skating on that frozen lake!

Some must read tips before ice skating on that frozen lake!

Some must read tips before ice skating on that frozen lake!

It’s hard to describe the scraping sliding sound of skates cutting over the surface of a frozen lake…. then combine that sounds with the slapping of sticks, the cheering and laughing… and you’ll have a true Canadian sound clip. But, you don’t have to be a Canuk to enjoy ice skating on frozen lakes or ponds!  Nor do you have to even be much of a skater to get out there and have some fun.

Firstly, how do you know when frozen lakes are safe?

There are many factors which play into the safety of frozen bodies of water… things like temperature, water composition, current, depth, and underwater geography.

The Canadian Red Cross recommends ice be at least 20 – 25 cm thick for skating (that’s almost 8 inches thick!).  Remember, the more people the more weight on the ice.   The recommendation for snowmobiling on ice is 25 cm (10 inches).

A few other tips for assessing ice safety:

Use a drill and tape measure to check the ice’s thickness

Don’t go on ice that has open water

Check the ice thickness in different places

Clear ice is safer that white or grey ice

Consult with the local authority’s ice safety assessments

I’ll be honest, I get nervous on frozen lakes…. no matter how thick that ice is!  I prefer to skate on ice that is being actively monitored and maintained by municipalities or organizations.  When the ice is being cleared and maintained with equipment you can be pretty certain that they’re keeping a close eye on the ice conditions and thickness.And, it should go without saying that if at anytime there’s a “no skating – thin ice” sign posted, don’t go out there!

Kids should wear helmets:

Have you ever seen a kid smash their head on the ice?  Ouch!  Kids who are little and new to ice skating are especially at risk of some bad falls.  Even strong skaters can have spills and wearing a helmet is just a smart thing to do. Frozen lakes and ponds may have cracks and uneven areas which can trip even the best skaters. Our kids will wear their bike helmets or ski helmets when we go skating as we don’t have hockey helmets.  But, if you plan to slap a few pucks around, the guard on the hockey helmets are a good idea because, believe me, a hockey puck in the face is no fun!

Warm your skates up

Don’t leave the skates in the garage or outdoors before your skate.  Bring them into the house so they warm up.  They’ll be easier to get onto those little feet if they’re not frozen. If you are driving to your skating adventure, transport the skates in a part of the vehicle that will keep them warmer.

Dress warmly

You’ll want to make sure you and your kids are dressed for an afternoon outdoors.  Warm socks, good mittens, neck warmers, toques, snow pants, and warm jackets. However, if it is close to freezing I find my older kids will complain of being too hot after they’ve been skating around for a while.  Oftentimes, wearing layers that can be peeled off is a good idea. Another trick to keeping hands warm is to use some hot hands in mittens or kept in the jacket pockets for quick warm ups. I wish I had some tips for keeping toes warm when skating.  No matter what I do, or which type of socks I wear, I find my toes are always cold!  So, if you happen to have a great tip for cold toes in skates, I’d love to hear it!


You don’t actually need to wear skates!

If you or your kids don’t have skates or don’t know how to skate, just go in your winter boots.  The kids will still have lots of fun running and sliding and exploring around! Seriously, don’t let this stop you.

Bring a sled

Will you be able to park close to the skating area?  Will you be skating in one area or will you be going for a long-distance skate?  Are you skating with a little one or bringing along a baby or child who won’t be skating?

Here’s why you might want to bring a sled along:

  • You can pull babies and toddlers in a sled. Bundle them up, add some blankets.  Some sleds even have covers for extra warmth.
  • You can put your extra clothes and snacks (or tired skaters) into a sled and pull that along if you’re going for a long-distance skate.
  • You can use the sled to pull everyone’s gear down to the ice and then just leave it on the side to pull everything back up to the vehicle when you’re done.
  • The kids can have fun just pulling each other and playing around with the sleds on the ice.

 Snacks and Drinks

If you go out for many adventures with kids, I’m sure you already know all about the importance of having snacks and drinks at hand! Hot chocolate in a good thermos is a special treat. Water is also a good idea especially if you and the kids will be exerting yourself. We’ve even been to outdoor skating rinks where there’s a campfire going on shore.  If this is the case on your adventure, hot dogs and marshmallows would be a fun treat!