Winter may seem as though it’s never going to end, but each day that goes by is one day closer to spring, and one day closer to questionable ice on local lakes. Even in the midst of winter storms and colder temperatures, keeping an eye on the ice is always a good idea.

Generally speaking, winter ice on Skeleton Lake, Lake of Bays, or any lake in North Muskoka is safe for your favourite activities, but making assumptions in this area is not wise.  Here are some guidelines just so you have a way to check whenever you like:

Checking Ice Thickness

Ice thickness isn’t the only factor when determining if lake ice is safe, but it can give you a good gauge. Things like snow cover, the water currents and the temperature are also factors. It’s important to note that the thickness can vary quite a lot over the same lake, and often in spots not far away from one another.

That being said, here are a few ranges of ice thickness and what they mean to you:

  • Two-inches or less – you should stay off completely; don’t even bother giving it a try.
  • Four-inches – safe for walking, cross country skiing or ice fishing.
  • Five-inches – this is generally safe for your ATV or snowmobile.
  • Eight to Twelve inches – safe for a small car or pickup truck.
  • Twelve to Fifteen inches – safe for the weight of a medium-sized truck.

Before you take the time to check, feel free to ask the locals about the current conditions, or where you can go to find the current conditions. If you hear one thing for Skeleton Lake, don’t assume the same is true for Lake of Bays or a different township. Find out for sure before you venture out.

Tools to Use

If you do get to the point where you want to check the ice yourself, there are a few different tools you can use to get an accurate measurement. These include:

  • Ice Auger
  • Cordless Drill
  • Ice Chisel
  • Tape Measure

If you use a cordless drill, be sure to fashion it with a wood auger bit, because it will have the necessary spiral action to get the job done. For augers, you can use a hand-held, gas or electric, as each one has its pros and cons. Naturally, the tape measure is used after the hole has been made to determine exactly how thick the ice is in that spot.

Visual Cues

If the thickness of the ice isn’t a 100 percent reliable way to tell if it is safe, then just looking isn’t either, but it can help you along. The safest ice generally looks clear or blue, as it is very dense. If lake ice looks light gray, dark black, white or opaque, it is probably weak due to melting ice or water saturation.

Be responsible, especially with the spring months right around the corner!