Warmer weather and thick snow are keeping the ice on some Alaska lakes thin-- too thin to travel on.

Big Lake is a busy lake-- even in winter—as the open expanse becomes a freeway, known as Ice 9, maintained Dan Mayfield and a handful of neighbors.

“Saves us about 10 minutes using the ice road,” Mayfield says.

Some years, the road is open to vehicle traffic by Thanksgiving. Not this year.

“That's how we normally measure, just one-inch increments,” Mayfield says, explaining that a chainsaw is used to measure the thickness of the ice.
Mayfield says the ice is much thinner this year and is freezing slowly.

“We actually got eight inches on that, which is really surprising, four inches of grey ice and four inches of good ice,” he says.

He's waiting for 12 inches of good ice.

“There's absolutely no way I'd drive a car on Big Lake right now-- this ice is unacceptable.

The shortcut across the lake is tempting, and some have already tried.

“One snow machine was lost in the water, the rider was saved, the other machine, my neighbor and myself helped get him out of the water,” Mayfield recalled.

It's a scary situation that Mayfield says happens almost every year. This year, he's asking for patience.

Mayfield says it could be a few weeks before the ice road is safe enough to travel. You can get updates from the Big Lake Trails website.

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