How to Ice Skate Safely in the Ottawa Region

“Even if you’ve skated on a frozen pond or waterway every year around this time, with our changing weather and water conditions, no ice is safe ice.”

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The temperature is dropping, but ice safety experts still recommend caution before finding a river to skate on.

“Our overall message is that no ice is safe ice,” he said. Sean Duffy, area president of the Lifesolving Society and representative of the Ottawa Drowning Prevention Coalition.

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Overnight lows in the double digits below zero have improved ice conditions in the National Capital Region, but it has still been less than two weeks since the Rideau River tragedy that left two teenagers drowned.

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“Even if you’ve skated on a frozen pond or waterway every year around this time, with our changing weather and water conditions, no ice is safe ice,” Duffy reiterated.

“Look at your neighborhood track. If that person is having trouble making ice (and needs about 10 centimeters thick), then you can be sure that in open water areas where there is moving water, the ice will not be safe.”

The Canadian Red Cross suggests that 15 centimeters of clear, strong ice is needed for an individual or small group to walk, skate or ski on the ice. Larger groups need 20 centimeters thick, while a snowmobile or ATV requires 25 centimeters. At least a foot of ice is needed before venturing out in a car or truck.

Rivers and streams are particularly dangerous because currents can thin and weaken the ice. Stormwater ponds, like those found in many subdivisions, pose a special hazard because water moves and water levels under the ice can fluctuate.

“Those are never safe,” Duffy said.

Mud Lake in the Britannia Conservation Area is a popular skating spot that has tempted many skaters this year with a smooth, snow-free surface. On New Year’s Day, just two days after the Rideau River drownings, a complainant called Ottawa police to the lake and warned several skaters that the ice was unsafe. Everyone complied and left the ice surface, police said.

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But there is no law stopping people from venturing out on the ice.

“The city asks residents to avoid going to frozen lakes or rivers as they are not maintained and safety cannot be guaranteed,” Tracey McGarry, Ottawa’s director of Resorts, Aquatics and Special Services, wrote in an email.

“Through the Ottawa Drowning Prevention Coalition, of which the city is a partner, regular public education campaigns and social media posts They are issued asking all residents to stay away from frozen lakes and rivers.”

If you venture out, Duffy has some advice. At times the ice has been tested and a safe area for skating has been cordoned off.

“Keep the conditions in mind. Is the ice clear? Is blue? he said. That is the strongest type of ice. Freezing and thawing cycles produce grayish-white ice that is softer and makes it difficult to judge the thickness of the ice.

“Is it moving water? Rivers are always dangerous environments. The lakes may be safer, but it still needs to be checked.”

The Drowning Prevention Coalition advocates for having layers of protection. Wear a life jacket or float coat, one that will keep you warm and buoyant. An ice safety kit includes manual picks that you can use to climb back onto the ice surface if you fall.

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“Take training,” he said. “Go to a pool and take a lifesaving class. “You can learn what to do if you fall through the ice so you can save yourself or help save someone else.”

Or you can look for alternatives to skating on lakes and rivers, like Ottawa City Hall’s Rink of Dreams. This year, the city’s Play Free program is offering free skating for youth 17 and under at more than 30 stadiums around the city.

If you’re craving that outdoor feeling, the forest skating rinks at Patinage en Forêt in Lac-des-Loups, north of Gatineau Park, are open for skating on three miles of trails. Closer to Ottawa, Icelynd in Stittsville and Petit Pinguin in Gatineau hope to be open for skating next week.

As for the Rideau Canal Skateway, it will still be a while, the National Capital Commission says.

“The public is asked to stay away from the Rideau Canal as the surface of the skating rink remains dangerously thin,” the NCC said in a social media update.

The canal skating rink needs 10 to 14 consecutive days of temperatures between -10 C and -20 C to freeze to the 30 centimeters thick required for the skating rink to open.

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