Sledding the County: Ice Safety

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 6:23 PM EST
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Snowmobile Season is just getting started for some parts of Aroostook County, and that means bodies of water may not be frozen all the way yet. In this week’s Sledding the county, Brian Bouchard speaks with a Game Warden about how to be safe before going out on the ice.

Snow has finally fallen and snowmobile season has arrived…but despite the white gold on the ground, snowmobile enthusiasts will have to wait longer for bodies of water to fully freeze.

“This year because of the warmer weather we’ve had it’s really kind of uncharacteristic of typically this time of year. Some of the smaller ponds seem to be frozen with some safe ice, but some of the bigger lakes and then that storm we had right before Christmas actually like long lake it actually opened up a majority of the lake, and we have not had that historically cold weather that Aroostook county usually does. So there is some ice but I wouldn’t say that everything’s safe”

Mike Joy is a Sergeant with the Maine Warden Service and says when it comes to riding out on the ice, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“I’ve always gone by the idea of “I want to know before I go” I want to know that the ice is safe before I venture out onto any frozen bodies of water. Whether it’s ice fishing or snowmobiling know that the ice that you’re going to be recreating on is safe prior to you going.”

This table regarding ice thickness and strength developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers states that ice needs to be at least 3 inches thick to support a snowmobile. Joy says a simple way to test this is to keep a small auger in your sled.

“I would recommend that if you usually have people fishing and other snowmobiles out there, that’s a good indication that the ice is safe but an ice auger, and some of the augers now that just run off a regular drill are a very easy way and light way to carry with you to check the ice of where you’re going.”

Joy went on to say that visually inspecting the lake is another good method. Any areas without snow cover, or that appear slushy could spell disaster for the unaware snowmobiler.

“Prior to being a sergeant in Aroostook County I actually supervised our dive team, and we were, in my opinion, way too busy and our simple task was body recovery of people who fell through the ice to include snowmobilers.”

Joy adds let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back as an extra safety precaution. He says he doesn’t want to scare riders away from riding on the ice, he just wants them to be aware of the dangers and risks given this years warmer temperatures.

Brian Bouchard, Newssource8