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Ice skating is one of the many traditional outdoor activities that makes Maine’s long, cold winter a little more tolerable. And it only requires two things: ice and skates. But there are a couple additional items that can make this activity a little more enjoyable and safe. Here are a few:

1. Snow pants or knee pads. A thick pair of insulated pants are good for staying warm, but they’re also good for cushioning falls, and let’s face it, if you’re going to go ice skating, you may fall. If you feel that snow pants are just too bulky or hot for skating, you may want to consider at least wearing knee pads. An unprotected knee cap slamming down on solid ice can be exceptionally painful.

2. A helmet. People commonly fall backwards while ice skating, especially when they are just learning to skate, and when you fall backwards, it’s very easy to hit the back of your head on the ice. Wearing a helmet can help prevent such a head injury, which could be serious.

3. Ice rescue claws. For people ice skating on ponds or lakes, ice rescue claws are simple safety tools that will help you if, heaven forbid, you fall through the ice. Essentially, they are metal picks that stick out of floating handles. Usually, you’ll carry these on a string around your neck, but you can also put them in a pocket. If you fall through ice, you take one in each hand and use them to grip and pull yourself back onto the slippery ice. You can purchase ice rescue claws, or you can make them out of two 4-inch pieces of wooden doweling, two nails and a length of strong cord, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

4. A ball. A lot of games that can be played on foot can be played while skating. With a ball, you can play games like “hot potato” or dodgeball. Just make sure to give other players space and be careful. Establishing a few ground rules for safety is always a good idea. For example, it’s important to establish that shoving and tripping is grounds for disqualification.

5. A thermos filled with hot chocolate, apple cider, coffee or tea. Often when people are active outdoors in the winter, they don’t feel as thirsty as they would on a hot summer day. However, one could argue that it’s even more important that you stay hydrated while exercising in the winter than in the summer because staying hydrated helps circulation, which in turn helps you stay warm.

Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn Sarnacki is a Maine outdoors writer and the author of three Maine hiking guidebooks including “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine.” Find her on Twitter and Facebook @1minhikegirl. You can also...