Winter has finally arrived in Montana, bringing myriad opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts to indulge in their favorite winter activities. Whether you're into ice fishing, skating, hunting, snowmobiling, or just enjoying a walk, prioritize safety during your winter adventures, especially when venturing onto or near the ice.

Key Ice Safety Tips

Know Your Environment

Before engaging in any winter activity on the ice, it's crucial to be familiar with the specific water body you plan to explore. Keep a close eye on changing ice conditions and be cautious of potential hazards.

Ice Thickness Guidelines

Adhere to the recommended minimum ice thickness guidelines to ensure safety:

  • Under 4 inches: Stay off
  • 4 inches: Individual angler or on-foot activities
  • 7 inches: Snowmobile or ATV
  • 10 inches: Small car
  • 12 inches: Truck or SUV (For white or snow ice, double the above minimums. Use caution for truck or SUV use.)

Watch for Hazards

Identify and avoid areas on the ice that appear different, as they may indicate thinner ice caused by various factors such as springs, gas pockets, or sunken islands.

Pressure Ridges

Be cautious of pressure ridges – weak or unstable ice caused by cracking and heaving due to freezing expansion.

Test the Ice

Use an ice spud bar or an auger to test the ice ahead of you and ensure its safety.

Variable Ice Thickness

Understand that water bodies do not freeze uniformly, and some areas may have thinner ice due to factors like aeration systems.

Avoid Moving Water

Steer clear of ice on rivers, streams, and near entrances where moving water weakens the ice.

Seasonal Considerations

Exercise extra caution during early and late seasons when weather conditions are less predictable.

Additional Safety Reminders

Weather Changes:

Consider recent weather changes, including wind, rain, and sun, which can rapidly impact ice conditions.

Life Jacket and Floatation Devices

Wear a life jacket (PFD) or carry a throwable flotation device or rope on the ice for added safety.

Ice Picks

Carry a pair of ice picks to aid in self-rescue if you break through the ice.

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