Staying safe out on thin ice
I have been thinking about your article “On thin ice” published on Monday Dec. 11. I’m glad to see the local agencies are training for rescuing people who have fallen through cracked ice.
Having spent years skating and skiing across many of our lakes, streams and rivers, I have a few more suggestions for people who go skating on natural ice. Certainly, if someone falls through, it is important for witnesses to call 911 for help, but I think it is even more important to be prepared to rescue yourself and the friends with you.
Preparing yourself for safety on natural ice is a lot like preparing to ski in the backcountry: You’d better be ready to take care of yourself and friends if something goes wrong.
Through many years of lake and pond hockey, my friends and I have always carried a long rope to throw to anyone who falls in. The people on firm ice get to land, hold onto the dry end of the rope, and slowly pull the fallen person out of the water.
When we go to remote mountain lakes far from help, we always tie a length of rope around our waists to throw out to our friends if we fall in. Also, as I learned from a Scandinavian friend of mine, we carry some long spikes in our pockets to use in a self-arrest from the water. If you fall through, it is very difficult to get back up onto solid ice because the ice is slippery. That is where the spikes come in. You can stab a spike into the intact ice and use it to pull yourself out of your hole.
Like the firemen say, if someone falls through, the next one in is usually a rescuer. If someone falls in, or if you discover the ice is thinner than you expected, don’t concentrate all of your weight on one spot by standing up. Instead, get low, spread your weight around on all fours, and get quickly to shore.
I hope that parents will teach their children how much fun they can have out on natural ponds and lakes; but I hope they also emphasize the dangers. With the warm weather we have been having the past two weeks, the natural ice we had earlier is gone, but, don’t worry, you can always go over to Northstar Village and skate for free from noon until eight at night.
Thanks, and keep skating.
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