The best way to get to the ice is with your UTV. It can haul a small ice fishing shed and your fishing or ice skating gear without worrying about getting stuck. Enjoy ice skating and ice fishing on that pond or lake that’s only accessible by snow machines or other off-road vehicles with these tips:
Before you head out, check the snow conditions and OHV trail and road closures. Snow conditions will determine whether you need additional accessories such as tracks for your UTV. Making sure the trails are open for your UTV will prevent disappointment if they are closed to all vehicles or if they are open only to snow machines.
Additionally, you need to check for ice thickness. If the ice is clear and it’s under 4 inches deep, it’s not safe. If it’s white snow ice and under 8 inches thick, it’s not safe. When checking ice, if it’s white snow ice, double the thicknesses for safety. Safe thicknesses for different vehicles include:
- If the ice is 5 to 7 inches deep, it’s safe to drive a snow machine or ATV on it.
- If the ice is 8 to 12 inches deep, it’s safe to drive a UTV, car or small pickup truck on it.
- To drive a medium truck on the ice, it should be at least 12 to 15 inches thick.
If you are ever unsure, stay off the ice.
Measuring the Thickness of the Ice
Always measure the thickness of the ice at least every 150 feet. Ice could be 12 inches thick in one place and just a few yards away, it could be less than 4 inches thick. You can use an ice auger, chisel or a cordless drill to make a hole in the ice. Once the hole is drilled, then hook the end of the tape measure to the bottom of the ice to take the measurement.
If you are driving a vehicle on the ice, be sure to stay where you’ve checked. Drive slowly on the ice and never leave your vehicle parked in one place for more than two hours. To see if the ice is sinking near your vehicle, drill a hole next to the vehicle. If you see the water coming out of the hole onto the top of the ice, the ice is sinking—move your vehicle.
Packing For Your Trip
When you take your UTV out, be sure to pack accordingly. You never know when you might end up stranded, even in a UTV. Be sure to bring the following:
- Tow rope (even if your UTV is equipped with a winch)
- Matches, preferably waterproof matches—never rely on a lighter
- Enough food for two days for each person
- Enough water for two days for each person—everyone should have at least 2 liters of water per day
- A first aid kit
- A change of warm clothing (if you do fall through the ice or you get wet on the trails, changing into warm clothing will help keep hypothermia at bay)
If you have space, a blanket for each person and a tarp are good additions. If you do have to stay overnight the tarp could be used as a tent and the blankets will help keep you warm. Also, bring kindling and paper to help get a fire started.
Apparel and Accessories
Always have the proper accessories and apparel to keep yourself safe while you’re out on the ice. The best way to stay warm is to layer your clothing.
The first layer should be some type of synthetic-blend long underwear top and bottom. This should be loose-fitting and comfortable. Wear your regular clothes over this layer. Your feet should be covered with loose-fitting wool socks and your boots should be waterproof and insulated.
The outer layer should be a warm jacket and insulated pants. For your extra change of clothes, you should bring all of these layers. Additionally, make sure you have a face mask and an approved helmet. The face mask will protect your face from the cold and may be worn under the helmet.
For a warmer, more enjoyable riding experience, equip your UTV with some accessory upgrades:
- A cab enclosure
- Cab heater/defroster
- A front windshield
- Rear windshield or panel
- A hard or soft roof
- A windshield wiper kit
You could use a full cab or add a soft roof with a windshield, which will keep a lot of the wind off you as you’re driving. If you completely enclose the UTV, adding a cab heater will really keep you warm.
A snow plow for your UTV not only allows you to plow your driveway, but it will let you plow the ice if it has a layer of snow on it. You shouldn’t use it to plow the trails as most trails are maintained. Your plow could wreck the snowpack on the trail.
Tire chains help if you are stuck on a hill or in an area where there may be snow and water. While you could winch yourself out, the winch cable only goes so far. Tire chains will give you enough traction to get yourself out of many spots.
When choosing a UTV, keep the use in mind. If you plan on using it during the winter, you need a powerful vehicle that is reliable and has good ground clearance to drive through deep snow. The 2019 Polaris Industries Ranger Crew XP 1000 EPS NorthStar HVAC Edition features a ProStar engine that makes 82 horsepower. It also has HVAC to make riding in the winter much more comfortable. The heat will also serve to warm you up while ice fishing so you can spend more time on the ice.
This Polaris comes standard with the Ranger Pro Shield cab system and factory installed HVAC system. With a 13-inch ground clearance, you’ll be able to hit most trails or even go off the trails in deeper snow. This model tows up to 2,500 pounds, so you can easily haul an ice shack to the lake. It uses a standard 2-inch receiver to haul a small trailer.