1849 Mountain Rentals

How to Safely Navigate Your Way Across a Frozen Lake or Pond

When the weather is just right in Mammoth, California, lakes freeze over and transform into natural skating rinks. These magical moments occur when it’s cold enough to freeze, but there’s no snow in sight. 

There are quite a few man-made ice-skating rinks in the area, some of which are close to our Mammoth Lakes rentals. But some adventurous travelers want to take their skates to a natural pond or lake and experience alpine skating first-hand. Others just want to walk across the frozen water to experience the landscape in a new way.

Whether you’re walking or skating, it’s important to be safe when you’re navigating frozen lakes and ponds.

frozen lake

Lakes That Freeze in Mammoth

Mammoth has some of the best opportunities for backcountry ice skating, sometimes called alpine ice skating.

Our Mammoth village rentals are close to some of the most popular lakes to skate or walk on, including:

  • Bishop Pass
  • Little Lakes Valley
  • Lake Mary
  • Rock Creek Lake
  • Twin Lakes

If the weather is just right, you may be able to skate on smaller ponds outside of town.

Before you head out with your skates, check with the Forest Service/Welcome Center to find out if any lakes are suitable for skating or walking. 

If you do plan on skating, know that there aren’t any rentals available. If you do need to gear up, Mammoth Sports at Canyon Lodge may have what you need. Canyon Lodge is right across from our Mammoth condos.

people on a frozen lake

How to Tell if a Lake is Frozen

Whether you plan to go skating or just want to navigate across a pond while hiking, it is important to be able to determine whether a lake is frozen.

A little common sense can eliminate a lot of the risk.

Some of the lakes in Mammoth may look frozen solid, but the ice may not be thick enough to support your weight.

Generally, you want to look for lakes that have ice that’s:

  • Solid
  • Blue/black 
  • Clear

The best way to test ice thickness is to bring along an ice auger or an ice chisel and a tape measure. 

  • Use the auger or chisel to create a small hole in the ice. 
  • Use the tape measure to measure the thickness of the ice.

As a general rule of thumb, ice should be at least 4 inches thick for ice skating. The thicker the ice, the safer it will likely be for ice skating.

But keep in mind that ice thickness can change. It may be thicker or thinner in some areas of the lake.

Trust your gut. If you aren’t sure whether the ice is safe, don’t take any chances.

cracked ice

What to Do if the Pond or Lake Starts Cracking

If you hear a booming or “singing” noise while you’re out on the ice, don’t panic. The ice makes this sound when it’s expanding or contracting with temperature changes.

But what if the ice on the pond or lake really starts cracking? Get onto your stomach and crawl or scooch your way across the water as slowly as possible. Moving on your belly will keep your body weight more evenly distributed.

If you fall through, stay calm. Do not remove your winter clothing. Dig the points of the ice picks into the ice while kicking your feet and sliding into the ice. If you don’t have any ice picks, call out for help or try swimming and crawling out.

Once you are safely off of the lake or pond, find shelter and dry clothing. 

Plan Your Visit

Whether you’re looking for an afternoon of skating or just want to have fun in the winter weather, our townhouses and condos put you right in the middle of it all!

How to Stay Safe During Winter Around Frozen Lakes and Ponds

Frozen lakes and ponds can be great opportunities for ice skating, but it’s important to make safety a priority.

  • Never skate on ice that is covered in snow.
  • Slush is another sign that the ice is unsafe for skating.
  • If you can see the current running underneath the water, it may be unsafe for skating.
  • Clear ice is the best for skating, while milky ice is more porous and weaker.
  • Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
  • Bring a buddy with you, or go with a group. Never skate alone.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing and a life jacket. 
  • Pack a space change of clothing in case of an emergency.
  • Bring your cell phone to call for help if necessary.

Our Mammoth Mountain lodging is conveniently located near many of the lakes that naturally freeze over in the winter.


Info@1849MountainRentals.com(760) 934-7525
Mailing a package?
826 Lakeview Blvd (POB 835)
Mammoth Lakes, California


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