How to walk on ice

Infographic by Curtis Whaley. (Via Mental Floss)


    1. Ooh, just wait until you get ripped apart in the mommy-blogosphere for not regurgitating partially digested fish into your toddler’s waiting mouth…

  1.  Speaking from experience coming from a land of 6 month Winters frought with ice. Yes this does work. Also running on ice works really well.

    What the article doesn’t show is that toe first walking works as well. Heel first tends to cause spills.

    1. Any type of walking that keeps your center of gravity over BOTH feet at all times works.  Basically, very short steps.

      1.  Agreed—with a sort of side to side penguiny thing going on.  I went to school in upstate NY  and a lot of the walkways iced over FAST and there was too much hardpack snow to walk on that instead.  You learn fast.

    2. Running on ice really is a good solution – I’m not sure exactly why, but it’s way more stable than walking normally. Of course, it also makes it more exciting if you still lose control.

    1. Though it can be a real problem if you end up having to use certain models of Broadcom wireless chipsets…

  2. This is great, I guess, but people don’t fall because they’re walking on ice. People fall because they slipped on ice they didn’t know was there. Solution: always walk like a penguin.

    1. I’ve known people who’ve managed to slip and fall despite knowing they were on ice, simply because they were unfamiliar with it.

    2. People fall on known ice all the time. Ice doesn’t stop being ice just because you know about it. Add a little slush or water on top of that horrible smooth glass ice with an air temperature around freezing, and you’re just plain going to slip and fall unless you waddle.

      Freezing rain sucks.

  3. Tai Chi has a concept of “avoid being double weighted”.  Similar idea, except instead of waddling, they practice being able to have 100% of your weight on either leg throughout all the stances, and being quickly able to transfer weight from one leg to another. Also, most of the weight is kept on the front part of the foot, off the heel.  Tai chi players tend to fall less.    

    1. I even have a walk I use when walking in a dark room barefoot (going to/from bed).  I turn my feet inwards so if I bang my toes it will hit them on the side instead of smashing them straight on.  Much less painful.

      1. You walk with your feet in the toe-break posture and pseudo-skate on ice? Can’t you just get a Vicodin prescription without wasting the ER’s time?

  4. Is this some kind of joke just so the people who don’t have to deal with ice can laugh at us? They could have just said “Don’t do the silly John Cleese walk” rather than “do the silly penguin walk”.

    1. Pretty much.  It’s like the advice in the California DMV driver’s manuals about “ice might be hiding on bridges”, for people who’ve never driven on the stuff before.

      On the other hand, they also have issues that don’t make sense to folks from elsewhere, like being careful on the first rainy day of the season because built-up oil might be slick.  (For Easterners, “first rainy day of the season” is “what, Tuesday or so?”)

      1.  Remember – for every handy tip and warning offered in any manual or handbook designed for new users, there was a dummy that necessitated its inclusion in the first place.

      2. The ice-on-bridges warning actually shows up even in places like New Hampshire, were it isn’t exactly an oddity.

        For the not-terribly-physics-inclined, it isn’t immediately obvious that bridges cool down to air temperature a great deal faster than roads sitting on top of a whole lot of dirt do, leading to periods in the fall where the roads are just damp; but the bridges are frozen.

  5. The hard part of using this technique (the practice of which, as a former Tahoe resident, I agree with 100% — it’s not the only technique, but it’s sound) is putting your weight forward when coming down icy hills. But then, it’s even more important. If you slide a little, you’re in a good position to ride it out, rather than immediately falling on your ass.

    1. As a Canadian, this got ingrained into me so as I prefer walking on ice now and as a kid, used to spend the summer wearing down my shoes so as to make them nice and slippy. Also I can Curl.

    2.  As another former Tahoe resident, I can attest to that. I always thought all the ski-balance skills came in handy on my daily walk down the steep path to my house. Weight very centered, ever so slightly forward, and not fighting the sliding, just going with it. It was actually a little fun.

  6. Taking short little steps and shuffling your feet is how I’ve always walked on ice.  Always seemed the natural way to do it.

    1. My theory has always been that this is less effective, because you’re intentionally giving up whatever traction that foot might have had by sliding it around. Things that are sliding tend to continue sliding until they lose momentum, so if you shift your weight suddenly or the texture of the ice changes.. down you go.

      The stride suggested in the post not only allows one to walk at normal speed, but gives some defense against short slips. As your balance is already properly set, you’ll just slide a little bit instead of toppling.

      It only breaks down if there’s a layer of water on top of the ice.. in those cases, you really gotta slow it down.

      1. I feel like by shuffling I always have both feet on the ground and my weight is over the foot sliding forward.  It is slower but beats falling.

      2. Things that are sliding tend to continue sliding until they lose momentum

        Yeah, you want only vertical motion when you’re on a slick surface.

  7. I would have thought that this is something everybody figures out about 2 minutes after stepping on ice for the first time.  I know that’s how I figured it out. 

    Well, that and it’s more fun to build up a bit of momentum and then slide (feet further apart while sliding) instead of waddling like a penguin the whole way.  

    1. I would have thought that this is something everybody figures out about 2 minutes after stepping on ice for the first time.

      you’ve failed to allow for the cognitive effects of the concussion.

    2. I can say with certainty that this is not true. When I first met my friend’s now-husband, it was when she brought him up to my place in Tahoe. He spent the entire weekend falling on his behind, hard, no matter how many times we’d tell him to keep his weight very centered and on his whole foot and take small, flat steps. He just kept going for these big heel-first strides. WHAM. He was not a happy camper.

    1. I saw some snowboard kids doing that at a ski resort a couple of times. It was as adorable as it was foolhardy.

  8. I’ve spent a bit of time in Ulaan Baatar in the winter. Not much side walk shovelling or treatment goes on there, so lots of slick ice. The locals have it down. They sort of skate shuffle with sliding feet. They move pretty quickly and they don’t seem to ever fall. It is just we visitors who seem to struggle.

  9. It also helps to do the “Mountaineer’s Waltz”: varying every footstep a bit instead of just putting your dogs down pointing towards your destination on every step.  This helps for two reasons:

    1 – Ice walking requires more effort out of your calves as you have to push off with your feet instead of using the momentum of your gait.  Making every step identical tends to cause repetitive stress until you’re used to it – but by then it’s Summer!

    2- Unless you’re a pioneer lots of people have gone this way before and have dug two little runnels of super-slippery ice down the path.  You’d rather not skate along on those so you put your feet across, not on, them.  Works for a little while until the whole width of the path has been polished down to a nice flat expanse of Black Ice.

      1. Thus creating a second path, with the same problems, beside the first.  Also generally the path is where it is because there’s 4 foot high drifts on either side of it.

  10.  Anyone who grew up in snowy places knows this stuff cold. 

    Driving in snow is another aspect that is not actually hard, but seems to utterly baffle and horrify the drivers here in Vancouver the 2-4 days/year we get snow.  The whole city grinds to a halt after a 1 cm snowfall.

    1. The strange thing about snowfall in Vancouver is that when it happens, I personally meet every single person in the whole city that knows how to drive in snow. Apparently, every person that I don’t meet that day cannot drive in snow, and are therefore the cause of all the traffic problems. 

      I have NEVER personally met anyone who does not know how to drive in snow, yet 99.9999% of the population apparently do not. Some coincidence, eh?

          1.  When I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, they cleared snow from the parking lot at my dorm and piled a large fraction of it in a seven foot high hill behind my car. It was a while before I could figure out where to get a shovel to dig out, and I went out once a week to run the motor for a while and keep the battery up.  When I finally dug out, the snow at the bottom of the pile had compacted into a sheet of ice about two inches thick and I had to wait until neighboring cars had left so I could go slippy sliding out of the parking space.

            But they kept all the sidewalks peachy clean using tractors with rotating brushes on the front.

  11. Canadian too… and this time of year when things are thawing and freezing is worst for that ice. Actually the side-kick pic reminded me of a move that is way more valuable than the penguin thing. Once you feel your feet going out from under you jump as high as you can and try your best to land hard and solid. I used it quite successfully this evening, as a matter of fact.

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