All divers ask, what is it like to ice dive? Followed by the diver stating, “It looks scary.” Yes, it can appear scary; however, with the proper training and exposure to proper practices, it can be a positive and enjoyable experience. Ice Diving is not scary; it is challenging and requires more situational awareness than a regular Open Water Dive. Unlike a nonice dive in the open water, we cannot ascent to the surface and exit whenever or wherever we are in the dive. Ice Diving requires more diligence in the preparation and execution of the dive.

Like any dive, there is a pre-dive briefing on what the dive entails. However, there is also a review of the extra safety measures. To start, all divers are secured to a rope secured to an immovable object. This is done so that if the rope tender loses control, it does not get pulled into the water. The rope is the lifeline for the divers as it maintains a safe distance from the egress point (the hole) and provides communication to the surface. The duties of the rope tender are to maintain proper rope tension and communicate with the divers. The communication process is a two-way street, from diver to diver. The tender is also responsible for removing the divers from diving into the hole in an emergency.

Then there is the safety diver who sits patiently with all their equipment on and a separate tether line attached. Their role is to support the divers if they cannot return to the egress point or become detached from their tether.

The divers are typically both on the same line. The first diver is situated at the rope’s end, and the second is approximately 5-6 feet up the rope. The second diver has the responsibility of communicating with the tender. The divers dive their dive plan and remain in contact with each other. Like any dive, if there is a problem, they can support each other.

Ice diving not only provides another reason to get in the water with current and new dive buddies, but it also provides the following;

  • Increased skills such as buoyancy control,
  • Emergency recognition and intervention, i.e. free-flowing regulator
  • Group dive planning: divers, tenders, safety divers, etc
  • Situational awareness with limited egress and environmental (cold water) conditions.

Don’t dismiss the Ice Diver course. It will provide a new avenue to explore the local lakes and gain more experience.

Pre-Requisite Certifications

To take the “Ice Diver” specialty course, you must have an “Advanced Open Water Diver” or higher rating.


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