Ice Safety Tips for Mild Winter Weather

When people think about Canadian winters, they think blizzards, frigid below-zero temperatures, ice fishing, pond hockey, snowmobiles and igloos. Amongst all the fun that winter brings, many forget to take ice safety precautions which are necessary for Calgary as we experience regular chinooks and rising winter temperature. Many winter activities occur on or around frozen bodies of water and when the temperatures rise, it is important to keep safety at the forefront of your mind. Below are some important facts and tips to remember when partaking in winter activities that occur on or nearby frozen surfaces:

Exercise caution during mild winter weather when participating in the following activities:

  • Pond hockey.
  • Snowmobiling.
  • Hiking/snowshoeing/cross-country skiing across frozen lakes, ponds and rivers.
  • Ice climbing.
  • Ice fishing.

Factors that can affect the thickness of ice, according to the Red Cross:

  • Depth and size of the body of water.
  • Currents, tides and other moving water.
  • Chemicals, including salt.
  • Fluctuations in water levels.
  • Logs, rocks and docks absorbing heat from the sun.
  • Changes in air temperature.

In order to keep yourself and others safe this winter, it is important to recognize the visible signs that indicate if the ice is safe or not. The colour of ice can serve as an indication of the strength of the surface. Three common colours of ice are:

  1. Clear blue: this is the strongest.
  2. White opaque/snow ice: this is half as strong as blue ice.
  3. Grey ice: this is unsafe and indicates the presence of water underneath.

In the event that someone falls through the ice, knowing what to do can be lifesaving. As in any emergency situation, the first thing to do is call for help. Call around for immediate assistance from bystanders while also calling 9-1-1 to get help from trained professionals. If you are a bystander, it is important to remain calm and remember that being on shore is the safest place to offer assistance from. As a bystander, you can attempt to reach the individual with a rope, long pole or branch; if readily available, toss them a floatation device. If you decide to personally go onto the ice to help reach the person or the person who has fallen in was able to get back onto the ice surface, you should wear a flotation device. First, test the ice strength ahead of you and then distribute your weight by lying down and crawling along the surface. If you are the person who has fallen in, it is important to resist the urge to climb out from the spot you have fallen in as the ice is very weak. Once the victim has reached the shore, check for signs of injury and hypothermia, transfer them to a safe place, provide warm, dry layers and get them further assistance as needed.

While partaking in your favourite activities this winter, be aware of weather patterns and inspect frozen surfaces to determine if they are safe for recreational use. The best way for you to stay safe this winter is knowing and recognizing the signs.