How to cross ice safely

Tips for travelling on lake ice & staying out of the water

By Cottage LifeCottage Life


Photo by Randy Craig

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Whether you are a winter cottager itching to cross the frozen lake to get to your place, or a snowmobiler who can’t wait to make some tracks, it’s important to understand the risks of traveling over ice.

Ice is constantly changing in response to weather and water conditions. That’s why ice is never 100 percent safe, even when you’ve tested its thickness.
The Lifesaving Society offers these tips:

1. Check the weather and avoid ice-related activities on warm or stormy days.

2. Check ice conditions with knowledgeable local sources such as resort owners, police, or members of snowmobile clubs.

The Lifesaving Society recommends a minimum ice thickness of 10 cm (4 inches) for a single person to walk, ice fish, or cross-country ski on it. Remember, though, that this recommendation is for new, clear ice under ideal conditions.

3. Avoid vehicle travel on ice whenever possible, especially if you’ve been drinking alcohol or taking drugs. If you do drive on ice ensure that your windows are rolled down, doors are unlocked, seat belts are unfastened and lights are turned on, as these precausions will allow for a quicker escape from your vehicle if it should go through the ice.

4. Keep away from unfamiliar paths or unknown ice, and avoid travelling on ice at night.

5. Never go onto the ice alone. A buddy may be able to rescue you or go for help if you get into difficulty.

6. Before you leave shore, inform someone of your destination and expected time of return.

7. Wear a thermal protection buoyant suit to increase your chances of survival if you do go through the ice. If you don’t have one, wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD) over an ordinary snowmobile suit or layered winter clothing.

8. Assemble a small personal safety kit, no larger than the size of a wallet, and carry it on your person. The kit should include a lighter, waterproof matches, magnesium fire starter, pocketknife, compass and whistle.

9. Carry ice picks, an ice staff, a rope, and a cellular phone.

10. If children do play on ice, insist that they wear a lifejacket/PFD or thermal protection buoyant suit. They should always be with a buddy and under adult supervision. Children that aren’t “within arms’ reach” have ventured too far.

Source: Lifesaving Society

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