As the weather begins to get colder, more and more people will look to get out on area lakes to ice fish, play some pond hockey, or even take the snowmobile out for a rip.

Before heading out on frozen lakes or ponds this winter, Greg Marcyniuk with Heritage Insurance wants to make sure you are safe out on the ice.  

“The things you need to consider for ice safety are the size and body of water, movement of the water, the current, recent and upcoming temperature fluctuations, the water level and the depth of the water under the ice,” says Marcyniuk.  

Heritage Insurance has a three-step success plan to make sure people are practicing safe procedures out on lakes and ponds this winter.  

First, Marcyniuk notes to perform a visual inspection of the lake before even attempting to travel on the ice.  

“If there are cracks, breaks or holes in the ice, water on top of the ice, flowing water, and if the ice is soft or mushy do not go out on the ice. Flowing springs and spring-fed ponds or lakes; if the ice appears to have frozen and then thawed and then re-frozen you definitely don't want to go on there.” 

He adds to be aware of a large amount of snow out on the ice, as this will act as an insulator for the melted ice and could be unstable.  

Secondly, he says to inspect the colour of the ice, as that will tell you how safe the surface is to either stand or travel on.  

“If it’s dull and grey that’s a definite sign of unsafe ice that won’t support a lot of weight. Opaque or snow ice is only half as strong as blue ice so you really have to be careful with this and make sure you measure it properly.” 

The best and most safe ice is blue or turquoise, as that is the natural colour of water and will deepen with increasing thickness. Also, it will form well below eight degrees Celsius.  

The third and final step to keep people safe this winter is to measure the thickness of the ice and compare that to what you’re taking out onto the surface if it’s people, a vehicle or a snowmobile.  

“If you’re going out by yourself, five inches thick is what is recommended. If you have a group of people or out on a snowmobile you want to have a minimum of eight inches. For driving on ice, you want a minimum of 12 inches for a light vehicle. This is for blue ice, not where there are heaves or opaque colouring.” 


To measure the thickness, he recommends not going too far out onto the ice, using a hatchet or ice auger, using a buddy system, and attaching a rope to yourself in the event you do fall in.  

Below are some more tips to keep you safe this winter: 

What to do if a companion falls through thin ice:

• Keep calm and think out a solution.  

• Don’t run up to the hole. You may fall through and then there will be two victims.  

• Use an item to throw or extend to the victim to pull them out of the water, such as jumper cables, skis, rope or push a boat ahead of you.  

• If you are unable to rescue the victim immediately, call 911.  

• Get medical assistance for the victim. People subjected to the cold may seem fine after being rescued but can suffer a potentially fatal condition called “after drop” where cold blood that is pooled in the body’s extremities starts to circulate again as the victim starts to warm.  

What to do if you fall through thin ice:

• Remain calm and look towards the shore/ice edge.  

• Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface of the ice.  

• Work forward on the ice by kicking your feet. This will assist in keeping your body horizontal and help you “swim” out of the hole in the ice.  

• If the ice breaks, maintain your position and slide forward again. If this doesn’t work – keep trying.  

• Once you are lying on the ice, don’t stand up. Instead, roll away from the hole.  

• Crawl back to your tracks, this will ensure that your weight is spread out until you are on solid ice or on shore.  

• Seek medical assistance. If someone has fallen through the ice, once out, they are in danger of having Hypothermia. Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature that is a potentially life-threatening condition and needs medical attention right away.  

If medical care isn’t immediately available:  

• Remove any wet clothes, hats, gloves, shoes, and socks.  

• Protect the person against wind, and further heat loss with warm, dry clothes and blankets.  

• Move gently to a warm, dry shelter as soon as possible.  

• Begin rewarming the person with extra clothing and warm blankets. Use your own body heat if nothing else is available.  

• Take the person’s temperature if a thermometer is available.  

• Offer warm liquids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine, which speed up heat loss. Don’t try to give fluids to an unconscious person.