This sounds like lots of fun, but please be very, very careful. I come from a small Wisconsin town, population 2000. Two weeks ago, a 42 year old father went out ice skating with his 10 and 6 year old daughters. At the edges of the pond, the ice was at least 3 inches thick. The 10 year old skated out towards the middle and broke through the ice. The father sent the 6 year old for help and then went to rescue his daughter. The father and 10 year old both died.

A few years ago, a 70 year old man local man drove his car onto Random Lake. He was going ice fishing. The car broke through the ice. The man and his dog both died.

Finally, a few years ago, I was photographing a fogged in lighthouse from a dock. It was early December and the temp was about 20F. There was a thin sheet of ice over the water. The dock went out into the water about 50 yards, and it was about 3 feet from the bottom of the metal dock to the ice. While I was photographing, my Bernese Mountain Dog, Jacob, was in a down stay. When I finished, I released him, saying "OK" He got up, barked, and jumped off the end of the pier and crashed through the ice. Nobody was around, visibility was poor (remember the fog?), and he couldn't swim to shore because of the ice. I jumped in. The water was over my head. Luckily, I could hold on the bottom of the pier with one hand, but I wasn't strong enough to lift him up and out, as he weighed over 70 lbs. I tried for a few minutes, but I couldn't do it. I don't know if you've ever been in 33* water, but your strength goes very quickly. I was barely able to get out. I started screaming for help. Luckly someone heard me, and he had a rope in the trunk of his car. We made a lasso and were able to pull Jacob out of the water. He was in for about 15 to 20 minutes total, and I don't think he would have lasted much longer.

(You can see a picture of Jacob at www.desmidt.net . Go to Canines and he's the second image.)

So please be very careful. Even people who have lived in a cold environment all their lives can make bad judgments.