Ice Safety

Ice Smart Safety Tips

Ice is constantly changing in response to weather and water conditions. Ice is never 100% safe, even when you have tested its thickness. Best advice is to stay off it! If you do decide to venture onto the ice:

  • Check the weather: Avoid ice-related activities on warm or stormy days.
  • Check ice conditions: with knowledgeable local individuals (for example resort owners, police or members of snowmobile clubs). 
Local conditions such as currents and water depths can affect ice thickness. White ice has air or snow within it and should be considered suspect for recreational use. For new, clear ice under ideal conditions, the Lifesaving Society recommends a minimum of 10cm (4 inches) for a single person to walk, ice fish, or cross country ski on it. An additional two centimeters or one inch is recommended for a snowmobile to go on the ice.
  • Keep away from unfamiliar paths or unknown ice and 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: River currents can quickly change ice thickness over night or between different parts of the river.
  • Wear a thermal protection buoyant 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 includes a lighter, waterproof matches, magnesium fire starter, pocketknife, compass, and whistle. A cell phone could also help save your life.
  • Avoid alcohol: Alcohol impairs your judgment and speeds up the development of hypothermia. Even one drink can dull your senses and slow your reaction time.
  • Evaluate ice quality and type before travelling: Sufficient clear hard new ice is the only kind of ice recommended for travel. Avoid slush ice, ice that has thawed and refrozen or “layered” ice caused by sudden temperature changes.
  • Watch for hazards: Pressure ridges can form due to wind, currents or ice pressure. Remember that snow on ice acts like a blanket and can prevent ice from hardening.


Safe Riders! You Make Snowmobiling Safe instructional videos

These thirteen instructional videos educate snowmobilers about the basics of snowmobile safety. It is the product of the Safe Riders! campaign initiated by the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) and the four snowmobile manufacturers: Arctic Cat, Bombardier Recreational Products (Ski-Doo), Polaris Industries and Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA. These videos are great supplements to a snowmobile safety course and are used by many safety instructors. Watch Now.