Re: Looking for the basic equipment for next year

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Jamie Hess

Mar 26, 2023, 10:11:00 AM3/26/23
to Henry Higgs,,
Henry, what you need are ice testing poles (e.g. Zandstra Ice Poles)
and a throw bag (e.g. Zandstra Safety Line). They're normally
available from Nordic Skater in Newbury, New Hampshire. Nordic Skater
just had their annual spring sale, and those items are currently sold
out, but I'm sure they'll restock in time for next fall/winter.

In the meantime, if you'd like to join one of my skating tours or ice
safety clinics and you don't have the necessary gear, contact me in
advance and I can bring you a set of loaners.

There's some confusion about what length poles to get for ice skating.
The confusion stems from the fact that the poles are dual-purpose:
both for propulsion (where longer is sometimes better) and for ice
testing (where shorter is always better). I do a lot of ice testing,
and I prefer an armpit-height pole so that when I raise the pole above
my shoulder I can deliver a solid jab straight down into the ice
(without spearing my foot). Here is my sizing guide:
6'5" or taller - 165cm
6'1" to 6'4" - 155cm
5'9" to 6'0" - 145cm
5'5" to 5'8" - 135cm
5'4" or shorter - the correct length is not commercially available,
but I can custom-cut a pair for you.

Happy skating,

On Sun, Mar 26, 2023 at 9:30 AM Henry Higgs <> wrote:
> Hi all,
> I've skated the rivers/lakes around the upper CT river valley for years, but have done so with only my nordic skates, ice pick things around my neck, and my XC ski poles. I want to skate with you guys next year, so I want to get set up with the basic safety equipment (I've been longingly reading the posts). Can somebody remind me what that is, and where I might get it?
> Thanks very much,
> Harry Higgs
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Evan Perkins

Mar 26, 2023, 10:48:20 AM3/26/23
to Jamie Hess, Henry Higgs,,
In my opinion, flotation is the most important part of your safety kit, particularly on Rivers. Wear a life vest or a properly outfit flotation pack. If you read reports of fatalities among skaters, the cause of death is drowning. We do need to carry the tools to help ourselves get out of the ice (and the equipment and knowledge to reduce the risk of going in in the first place )but there are certain situations where that is not possible, or not possible without the aid of flotation. Evan

Jamie Hess

Mar 26, 2023, 12:04:59 PM3/26/23
to Henry Higgs,,
Quick update. Nordic Skater does in fact have 135cm and 165cm Zandstra
Ice Poles in stock, and they're 20% off during the spring sale. So if
you're 5'5" to 5'8", or if you're 6'5" or taller, you're in luck!

Matt Steinberg

Mar 26, 2023, 12:54:54 PM3/26/23
to Evan Perkins, Jamie Hess, Henry Higgs, NHNordicSkating, VTNordicskating
So I took a surface ice rescue course two weeks ago which involved among other things, taking 11 plunges in the ice hole in various scenarios, from no equipment to claws, float pack, and PFD. I attempted simulating falling in at speed on skates. I found a few interesting things. First while wearing both a pack and a PFD, my head still went under water, so imagine what it was like without them. The good news is with that flotation gear on, I popped back up almost immediately. Secondly, as has been discussed here before, was the absolute need for a leg loop or tightly buckled waist belt on your pack. Without one, I surfaced to find my pack on top of my head, greatly increasing the difficulty of getting out. Lastly, when attempting to pull  myself out on an ice sheet that was continually breaking, the flotation greatly assisted in keeping me from tiring myself out as quickly because you don't have to tread water in between extrication attempts. Keep in mind I tried to simulate worst case scenarios, doubtful any of you will voluntarily skate into an open culvert, so this is not meant to frighten or compare this to what most people do, just some observations on what I experienced 


Daniel Spada

Mar 26, 2023, 6:19:22 PM3/26/23
to Matt Steinberg, Evan Perkins, Jamie Hess, Henry Higgs, NHNordicSkating, VTNordicskating
Thanks for telling about your training.  I hope you describe the course in more detail.  I'm interested to know more about your plunge.  You indicate that even with the PFD your head went under water.  Have you seen the video I posted here:   In it I step off a dock that is probably 1.5' above the water surface. I assumed that would be a worse case scenario; maybe it's not.   As you can see on the video I went in up to my beard but did not get my mouth wet.  I was wearing my Plurr Pak that was fully loaded with the gear I would normally be skating with.  With the gear I am wearing in the video, I estimate that I weighed about 155 lbs.  Is that comparable to your weight? Sorry to be personal, but I'm  thinking that our relative weights was the only thing that was different enough to make the depth of plunge greater for you and lesser for me.  I can say that I also went in with this same gear, plus skates, in an unplanned plurr January 2022 and had the same result.  I'm totally in agreement with you and Evan on wearing the PFD.  As you note, even if you go in over your head initially, you bob up and are held up without having to expend energy treading water.  You can concentrate all your energy on more important pursuits.

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