Ice Driving

Posted by MNAngler On February - 8 - 2010

I’ve lived in Minnesota all my life (except for a college at Purdue), but this is the first year I’ve been on frozen lakes with any kind of regularity. This year, while I’ve been a passenger in vehicles on the ice, I’ve never actually driven on the ice myself.

Until yesterday.

Driving on the ice is really no big deal in Minnesota, especially this time of year when the ice is 2 feet thick or more. General guidelines specify that the ice need only be 8-12 inches thick to support a car. Being a passenger on the ice is just like being a passenger on the road. But being the driver on the ice is quite a different matter. You wouldn’t think there would be much psychological difference as a passenger than a driver, but there really is.

When you’re a passenger, you’re just along for the ride. While you made the decision to get in the vehicle that ultimately goes on the ice, your brain tells you you’re not really the one in control. You’re not the one who makes the decision to actually get on the ice. But when you’re the driver, you don’t have that excuse. You let the car go out there. You didn’t hit the break while still on land. You are driving the car onto a surface where your brain tells you three months ago it couldn’t support so much as a Matchbox car.

It may sound like I had a lot of anxiety before actually going out on the ice, but I really didn’t. It’s not like I paused on shore before heading out, or had an iron grip on the steering wheel. I just noticed I had a different mindset driving than riding. It was really just an extension of the road, especially when dozens of cars had already created a makeshift road on the lake. Driving on ice is a lot bumpier than on a regular road and I never noticed that as a passenger.

I’m sure this won’t be the last time I’ll be driving on ice, even this season. It’s actually a lot of fun because there’s a certain kind of freedom to it. You’re not restricted to roads and can go whereever you please. It’s kind of like baja-ing on a sand dune. More often than not, you’ll find remnants of people doing donuts.

I would recommend using a 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive car when driving on lakes. Unless you’re on a popular enough lake where roads are actually plowed, you’re going to be driving on several inches of snow. A two wheel drive car will be a lot easier to donut, but a lot easier to get stuck.

4 Responses to “Ice Driving”

  1. Optimista says:

    Wait. They PLOW ROADS on the lakes?

    Minnesotans are nuts.

  2. BigSkyAngler says:

    Just watch out for those strange holes that sometimes appear for no reason in the ice on Minnesota lakes. I saw one while skiing across a lake by Ely several winters ago. Big enough to swallow a car. Spooky!

  3. Matthew Newman says:

    I’m surprised you rolled straight out. I usually stop first, undo my seat belt and roll down the window… and I’m the guy out there whippin’ shitties in a big ace truck loaded with all kinds of gear.

  4. [...] few weeks ago, I wrote about my first experience driving on ice. If I had this information, I would have been a lot less cavalier about going out there. I’ve [...]

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