Though the temperature outside has bounced up and down in the past days, nights have been sufficiently cold for some of the East End’s ponds to freeze enough for skating. The Buckskill Winter Club rink might keep our skills and blades sharp, but it cannot compare to the joy of gliding on wide-open surfaces with the wind at our backs. But skating in the wild, as it were, comes with its own set of risks, and caution must be the watchword.
Four inches of solid ice is considered the minimum safety margin; anything less, and a skater risks plunging into dangerously cold water from which it is difficult to escape. Never skate alone is a key piece of advice to keep in mind. Watching out for partially submerged limbs or rocks where the ice may be thin is another smart move. Those of us organizing skating parties on the ponds might consider coming equipped with such things as a long rope with a “throw bag” or a plastic gallon jug with a bit or water or sand inside for weight to help get to victims. Ladders to aid in reaching a person in the water can be a good idea, too. And, when none of these are available. A human chain of people lying prone on the ice is the next option.
Provided this cold snap continues and snow does not cover the ice, pond skating season may at last be here again. Let’s think before we go to make certain it is a safe one.