Town of High River Fire Chief, Lance Bushie, is offering some ice safety tips for residents and visitors this winter season.
“Alberta experiences frequent freeze/thaw weather cycles and this can affect the consistency of ice thickness on lakes and ponds,” says Bushie. “The best thing you can do is keep yourself and your pets away from the ice to avoid the risks involved with doing recreational activities on lakes and ponds.”
The Highwood River, as well any town-owned lakes and storm water ponds such as Sunshine, Emerson, Highwood, Montrose and Vista Mirage, are not monitored for ice thickness by the Town. Recreational activities on these ice surfaces are not encouraged or supported by the Town and users do so at their own risk.
“The river is particularly dangerous as water flow, rocks and sun can all cause variations in ice thickness,” adds Bushie. “People put themselves at risk by venturing out onto the ice, all it takes is one weak spot and you go through the ice and it’s not worth the risk.”
Bushie adds that residents should call 9-1-1 immediately if they witness someone falling through the ice.
“Call 9-1-1 and then, if you can do so from the shoreline, try to reach the person with a long branch or throw them something they can use to pull themselves out,” adds Bushie. “The Fire Department has the equipment and skills to rescue people or pets who fall through the ice, please do not put yourself at risk to try and rescue anyone.”
Bushie adds that, if you do fall through the ice into water, it is best to remain calm and stay still to conserve heat while remaining horizontal and facing the shore. There are more tips on ice safety available here.
Residents and visitors are advised to use the facilities at the Bob Snodgrass Recreation Complex and other recreation areas located on public lands throughout town until the outdoor skating rink is operational.
The High River outdoor skating rink is located at 820 Highwood Trail S.W., beside the southwest community gardens and historic Town Farm site. The skating rink is maintained by the Town’s Operations department and offers seasonal outdoor skating opportunities.
Due to fluctuating temperatures in the winter, including Chinooks, maintaining outdoor ice can be a challenge. Crews have begun to flood the rink for the season but need the daytime temperatures to remain around -12C for a minimum of one week to complete installation and ongoing maintenance of the ice rink.
“There are individuals using augers to check ice thickness to ice fish on some Town ponds,” adds Bushie. “While we don’t recommend this, we ask that you ensure the ice is at least 10 cm thick at minimum before you attempt any ice fishing. It would also be a great idea to make sure you are using the buddy system and have a friend with you for safety.”
To learn more about the High River Fire Department, visit highriver.ca/fire-department . To find information on the outdoor skating rink, visit highriver.ca/outdoor-skating-rink. To view recreation schedules at the Bob Snodgrass Recreation Complex, visit highriver.ca/recreation-schedules.