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Ice Safety

In wintertime, many of Canada’s millions of lakes and ponds call many adventurers to come out and play. Frozen bodies of water offer great opportunities for sports such as ice fishing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, skating and snowmobiling. Because no ice surface is without some risk, ensure you become ice aware and take all necessary precautions before you venture out. If not, you could literally find yourself on thin ice!

The recommended minimum depth for activities on new, clear, hard ice is:

Ice Depth Activity
7 cm (3 in) or less STAY OFF
10cm (4 in) ice fishing, walking, cross country skiing
12cm (5 in) one snowmobile or ATV
20-30cm (8-12 in) one car or small pickup
30-38cm (12-15 in) one medium truck (pickup or van)

If you break though:

  • Do not panic. Your clothing will trap air and keep you buoyant.
  • Turn towards the direction you came from and place your hands and arms flat on the unbroken surface.
  • Kick your feet and try to push yourself up on top of the unbroken ice on your stomach, like a seal.
  • Once you are lying on the ice, don’t stand up. Roll away from the break until you are on solid ice.
The Right Gear  +

If your buddy breaks through:

  • Stay calm and think out a solution.
  • Don't run up to the hole. You might break through and then you’ll both need help.
  • Use an item to throw or extend to your friend to pull them out of the water – if you don’t have a rope, improvise with items such as jumper cables, skis, etc.
  • If you can't rescue your buddy immediately, call 911 on a cell phone.
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Photo: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism (banner); Government of Yukon/C. Archbould