Winter can be an awesome time to head outside and enjoy some active play. In Alberta, many winter games and sports are played on ice. If you are planning on incorporating ice skating, ice hockey, or any other games on a frozen surface of water make sure you are completely aware of the factors that make ice safe for play.
First things first: is your ice surface thick enough? An ice thickness of 20cm is required for any skating activities on a pond, lake, or river. Many different things can affect ice thickness including your location, temperature, time of year, type of water and environmental factors.
When inspecting your ice thickness consider factors like:
- water depth and size of body of water
- currents, tides and other moving water
- chemicals including salt
- fluctuations in water levels
- logs, rocks and docks absorbing heat from the sun
- changing air temperature
- shock waves from vehicles traveling on the ice
The colour of the ice can tell you a little bit more about its strength. For example, clear blue ice is the strongest. White or snowy ice is about half as strong as blue ice and is usually formed by wet snow freezing on the ice. If the ice is grey, keep off. Greyness is unsafe and indicates there is water in the ice.
Safe Kids Canada
recommends that your ice thickness should be at least 15cm for walking or skating with a few people. It should be 20cm for skating parties or games involving many people and should be at least 25cm thick for snowmobiles.
Skating and Hockey Safety
All skaters should wear CSA-approved hockey helmets when skating and playing ice hockey. These helmets are specifically tested for falls on ice and should be replaced every 5 years.
Sharp skates work the best. A well fitted skate will have firm ankle support and fit snug.
Check the ice surface and mark any bumpy or slushy sections ‘out of bounds’ for the activity. Beware of quick thaws that can weaken the ice surface.
If you are playing hockey, recommend participants bring and wear hockey equipment like gloves, shoulder pads, elbow pads, shin pads, and mouth guards. Keep the sticks on the ice, pucks down low, and teach participants to skate with their heads up so they can see other players and avoid a collision.