February 3, 2013

Skating another way to appreciate waterways

My grandfather’s sister once told me a story about ice skating on Lake Champlain in 1931.

She was jumping a pressure crack and fell in. She froze her sleeves onto the ice until she could hoist herself back up.

She got out but she drummed into my head that no one should be on the ice without what she called “picks.” They were two cut-off wooden dowels with nails stuck in one end and a rope connecting them to each other.

Also referred to as ice claws, these are essential equipment for anyone who loves ice. Nordic Skater in Norwich, Vt., sells an industrial-strength style, but the old-fashioned style is still available from local shops that supply ice fishermen. Norm’s Bait and Tackle in Crown Point carries them. There are also very easy instructions online about how to make your own for free. If you love someone who loves ice, get him or her a pair of ice claws for Valentine’s Day.

Lake ice skating has created a new community of ice lovers. A group that began in Vermont and now has a number of followers from New York posts updates about where skaters can find good ice. Last weekend the Inland Sea had new ice that looked like glass.

Lake skating is a magical and addictive sport but it comes with obvious hazards. Being able to read the ice is what keeps you safe. Although most people feel safer on white ice, it is usually not as strong as clear ice, which forms during long, hard freezes.

Experienced skaters themselves are the best resource for what’s safe. I recently found the website and it is a must-read for fishermen, snowmobilers, hockey players, ice boaters and skaters. The site has great information about flotation, ice hazards, ice on ponds, pressure ridges and much more.

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