Ice Safety

Ice Safety

Frozen lakes offer great opportunities for sports such as ice fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating, and snowmobiling. When recreating on lakes this upcoming winter, please keep in mind the following information from the Canadian Red Cross.

Many factors affect ice thickness including:

  • Time of year
  • Location
  • Water depth and size of water body
  • Currents, tides, and other moving water
  • Chemicals, including salt
  • Fluctuations in water levels
  • Logs, rocks, and docks absorbing heat from the sun
  • Changing air temperature
  • Shockwaves from vehicles traveling on the ice

Ice Colour

  • The colour of ice may be an indication of its strength.
  • Clear blue ice is strongest.
  • White opaque or snow ice is half as strong as blue ice. Opaque ice is formed by wet snow freezing on the ice.
  • Grey ice is unsafe. The grayness indicates the presence of water.

Did you know ice thickness should be:

  • 15 cm for walking or skating alone
  • 20 cm for skating parties or games
  • 25 cm for snowmobiles

Keep in mind that ice conditions can change quickly! Check with local authorities before heading out. Avoid going out on ice at night.

What to do in an Emergency

If alone:

  • Call for help.
  • Resist the immediate urge to climb back out where you fell in. The ice is weak in this area.
  • Try to relax and catch your breath. Turn yourself toward shore so you are looking at where you entered onto the ice. The ice is more stable close to shore.
  • Reach forward onto the broken ice without pushing down. Kick your legs to try to get your body into a horizontal position.
  • Continue kicking your legs and crawl onto the ice.
  • When you are back on the ice, crawl on your stomach or roll away from the open area with your arms and legs spread out as far as possible to evenly distribute your body weight. Do not stand up! Look for shore and make sure you are crawling in the right direction.

With others:

  • Rescuing another person from ice can be dangerous. The safest way to perform a rescue is from shore.
  • Call for help. Consider whether you can quickly get help from trained professionals or bystanders.
  • Check if you can reach the person using a long pole or branch from shore. If so, lie down and extend the pole to the person.
  • If you go onto ice, wear a PFD and carry a long pole or branch to test the ice in front of you. Bring something to reach or throw to the person (i.e. pole, rope, tree branch).
  • When near the break, lie down to distribute your weight and slowly crawl toward the hole.
  • Remaining low, extend or throw your emergency rescue device to the person and have them kick while you pull them out.
  • Move to a safe position on shore or where you are sure the ice is thick and call for help.

If you plan on ice fishing, please see this document for safety tips.

Canadian Red Cross. Ice Safety.
Minnesota Sea Grant. Hypothermia Prevention: Survival in Cold Water.

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