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Know before you go: ice should be 10 cm thick before walking on it

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WATCH: Most lakes should be well frozen over by this point in winter but there can be spots of weaker ice, especially on ponds and rivers within Calgary. Tiffany Lizée reports – Jan 24, 2019

With the warm bouts of weather many across the Prairies have been experiencing this winter, outdoor enthusiasts are taking advantage by lacing up their skates or tossing in a line.

But it’s important to know the conditions before you make your way onto a frozen lake, pond or river.

My Wild Alberta recommends ice thickness should be 10 centimetres for a person to walk on and at least 30 centimetres to drive a pick-up truck on.

WATCH: Dramatic video shows truck going through ice on Lake Winnipeg

Doug Massig is an outfitter with Ice Fishing Alberta and recommends drilling holes in the ice if you’re going out on a lake you’re not familiar with.

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“I always tell people: start drilling a hole walk a bit, drill another hole, walk a bit drill another hole and if you do see that depth start to change then you know you don’t want to go any further, you want to stay where you have that nice depth.”

Most lakes should be well frozen over at this point in the season but there can be spots of weaker ice, especially on ponds and rivers within Alberta’s cities and towns.

Calgary Fire Department spokesperson Carol Henke said their peak time is fall, winter and spring where they can field anywhere from 25 to 50 ice rescue calls.

Ice rescue calls to the Calgary Fire Department from 2015 to 2018. Calgary Fire Department

Henke advises that if you see someone who may be in need of help, call 911 immediately. If you are trying to reach for the person in distress, you shouldn’t put yourself at risk.

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“The biggest concern is hypothermia,” Henke said. “If people fall through the ice and they’re immersed in the water for even a short period of time, hypothermia can set it very quickly.”

WATCH: Ice fishing safety tips and equipment essentials

While temperatures fluctuate and ice thaws and re-freezes, Massig says you can often gauge the ice thickness by its colour.

Pay attention to the colour of the ice, before drilling a hole for ice fishing. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
“It’s going to be a nice blue colour, so it’s a solid piece of ice. In the spring what starts to happen is, as it starts to melt a little bit you’re going to get water in the ice and so it’s going to turn white and then grey. When it’s white, you have way less stability and when it’s grey it’s [slushy].”
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So if you’re skating or fishing, staying close to home or heading into mountains, make sure to check the ice thickness before heading out.

To stay updated with radar and weather alerts in your area, download the Global News Skytracker weather app for iPhone, iPad or Android.

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