Many factors affect ice thickness including the type of water, location, and time of year. Other environmental factors also affect ice thickness such as the size and depth of the body of water; moving water (i.e. currents, drainage, runoff); snow cover; chemicals including salt; fluctuations in water levels; logs, rocks and docks absorbing heat from the sun; changing air temperature and shock waves from vehicles travelling on the ice.
Please check local area signage, authorities and media before going onto the ice. No ice is without risk.
Top Ten Ice Safety Tips from the Lifesaving Society:
- Use designated ice surfaces
Many communities have designated ponds for activities such as skating that are maintained by knowledgeable personnel. Designated ice should be regularly tested to ensure that it is thick enough and strong enough for recreational use.
- Spring Ice is Rotten Ice
Stop using the ice once spring thaws begin. Even if ice measures at the right thickness (minimum 10 cm or 4 inches for walking or skating alone), candling during melting weakens it vertically. The ice can no longer be trusted.
- Measure ice thickness in several locations
Local conditions such as currents and water depths can affect ice thickness. Consult knowledgeable local individuals. White ice has air or snow within it and should be considered suspect for recreational use.
Recommendations for ice thickness are based on clear, blue or green ice: 3″ (7cm) or less – STAY OFF!
4″ (10cm) – ice fishing, walking, cross country skiing
5-7″ (13-18cm) – one snowmobile or ATV
8″-12″ (20-30cm) – one car, group of people
12″-15″ (30-38cm) – one medium truck (pickup or van)
- Avoid traveling on ice at night
At night it is very difficult to see open holes in the ice. This is a frequent cause of snowmobile drownings.
- Never go onto ice alone
A buddy may be able to rescue you, or go for help if you get into difficulty. Before you leave shore, tell someone where you are going and expected time of return.
- Stay off river ice
Avoid moving water and stay off water bodies with changing water levels. River currents can quickly change ice thickness over night or between different parts of the river.
- Wear a snowmobile flotation suit or a lifejacket
Wear a lifejacket or PFD over your snowmobile suit or layered winter clothes to increase your survival chances if you do go through the ice.
- Take safety equipment with you
Include ice picks, ice staff, rope, and a small personal safety kit in your pocket, which should include a lighter, waterproof matches, magnesium fire starter, pocket knife, compass, whistle and a cell phone.
- Avoid alcohol
Alcohol impairs your judgment and speeds up the development of hypothermia.
- If you drive on ice, have an escape plan
Open your windows, unlock your doors, ensure seat belts are unfastened and turn on your lights to allow you to quickly escape from your vehicle should it go through the ice.
- Always actively supervise children playing on or near ice
Children should always be under active adult supervision. Children that aren’t within arm’s reach have ventured too far. Insist that they wear a lifejacket/PFD or thermal protection buoyant suit.
- Ice Rescue
Rescuing another person from the ice can be dangerous. The safest way to perform a rescue is from the shore. If you see someone in trouble, call 911.