When you live in Northern cottage country, there are plenty of fantastic winter activities you can participate in. But snowmobiling, ice fishing, hockey or snowshoeing can quickly become dangerous pastimes if you do not know how to tell if the ice is safe enough to withstand weight.

With the temperatures falling to minus forty degrees last week, the lakes and river systems are sure to be frozen right now.  It is important know what can affect the thickness of the ice. A few examples are:

  • Location,
  • Size, depth and type of water,
  • Water level fluctuations, and;
  • Changing air temperature

It is a good idea to check the safety of the ice regularly. That being said, there is no such thing as “safe ice”. Anytime you go on the ice, the unknown factors can suddenly change the condition of the ice.

If you do plan on being active on frozen lakes and rivers – prepare for the worst. Here are some basic points to remember:

  • Use the buddy system
  • Tell other people where you are planning on going
  • Make sure you are dressed appropriately for cold weather
  • Be Patient – wait for the ice to be thick enough (at least 4 inches)
  • IF YOU FALL IN DON’T PANIC  – cold shock only lasts a minute
  • Do not remove your clothes – they will keep you warm and the trapped air will keep you afloat
  • If you cannot get out of the water, tuck your knees to your chin to conserve heat
  • If you are with others, huddle together to conserve body heat
  • Carry an ice-pick for grip
  • Try to propel yourself onto the ice like a seal
  • Stay flat once on top of the ice to keep your weight distributed over a larger area
  • Dry out – hypothermia is a threat

BE SAFE AND HAVE FUN THIS WINTER – it’s what having a cottage in Ontario is all about!

Useful Tip: Grey ice is unsafe. Grayness indicates the presence of water.

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