HOW IT'S DONE: Some bold folks in Wisconsin Dells, however, give spring a kick start and send the ice downriver in February. "Big Dave" Ehardt took over the task from the Leonhardt family, who started breaking ice in 1973. Ehardt slides his boat across the ice to the first small patch of open water he can find. He runs it up onto the ice to break it loose, one chunk at a time, then motors around in circles to create waves, which speed the process. This is no job for a novice, as sharp ice sheets can gash an aluminum boat like a can opener. Working his way upstream, he clears about five miles of river below the Wisconsin Dells dam, and the open-water season is on.