Winter can be a lot of fun in Colorado, but, along with the fun comes the element of danger.

Whether it's ice fishing, ice skating, or snowmobiling, Colorado's winter ice provides some great recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts who don't mind the cold. However, there is an inherent danger that comes with playing on ice, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife has some great tips to help keep you safe.

How Thick Is the Ice

Family ice fishing

The first and most important thing to know is how thick the ice is where you hope to fish. Ice conditions can vary from lake to lake, so it's essential to use proper caution. Ice thickness depends on several factors. For example, a shallow lake will freeze faster than a deep lake and new ice is stronger than old ice. You have to be careful around partially submerged objects like trees, brush, and embankments because ice will not form as quickly when the water is shallow or where sunlight can be absorbed by the objects.

The Rules of Ice

  • If the ice is 2 inches or less you should absolutely stay off.
  • Good ice for walking and fishing should be at least 4 inches.
  • For a snowmobile or ATV, the ice needs to be at least 6 inches.
  • If the ice is 8-12 inches, it's strong enough for a car or small pickup
  • For a medium-sized truck, 12-15 inches of ice is recommended.

CP & W says it's a good idea to drill test holes or use an ice chisel to judge the thickness of the ice. Holes should be at no more than 30-foot intervals.

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Safety Equipment

Ice fishing

It's foolish to venture onto ice without the proper safety equipment. CP & W recommends the use of crampons or cleats for walking, two picks or spikes connected by a cord, and a portable flotation cushion. Having a long cord attached to a sled can make it easier to pull, and can also aid in a potential ice rescue should someone fall through the ice.

Beware of Ice Covered With Snow

Ice fishing trap waits patiently for fish under the ice.

Snow can act as insulation and prevent the formation of clear, blue ice. It can also hide cracks and weak ice. You should always say away from cracks, pressure ridges, and slushy or darker areas that may indicate thinner ice.

Playing outdoors in the Colorado winter can be a lot of fun, but it's critical that you take the necessary precautions when venturing out. Colorado Parks & Wildlife has more information and tips on staying safe on the ice this winter.

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