Living in Yellowknife

Ice Safety Tips and Precautions

Yellowknife Ice Thickness

Walking, snowmobiling or driving on lake ice can be a very dangerous activity if the ice is not thick enough to withstand the weight of you and the machine you might be operating. This article will help you with all you need to know about ice thickness, how to measure it and what to do if you fall in. To check the ice measurements of the lakes around Yellowknife go to the City Website Page, which is updated weekly until the ice reaches a certain point. Keep in mind, it is at your own risk.

Here is a chart to give you an idea of what thickness can handle what weight:


If you want to check the ice for yourself, such as at your cabin, here is a How-To Guide:

What you need: Ice auger(an axe could work, I have done it, but it makes a mess), L-shaped stick (can be anything), measuring tape, and a shovel.

How to Do it:

  1. Shovel away all the snow in the area where you want to drill your hole in the ice
  2. Prep your Ice Auger, make sure the blade is sharp. Start it up if it is a gas auger.
  3. Start drilling by slowly drilling your hole so that the auger goes down in one spot and continue down.
  4. While you’re drilling it is a good idea to pull up the Auger once and a while to get the ice shavings out of the hole. Use the shovel to remove them once they are up.
  5. Once you have gone through the ice, bring your auger back up and make sure you don’t put it in the snow so it does not have clumps of snow and ice on it when you put it away. (Not something you have to do, just something I do)
  6. Clear all the slush and ice chips out of the area with the shovel and try to get as much as possible out of the hole.
  7. With your L-shaped stick put the horizontal end ( — part) into the ice and then pull the stick back upwards so that the horizontal part of the stick hits the underside of the ice.
  8. Mark on the sticks verticle part (|) where the ice (top) begins.
  9. Once you pull the stick out of the hole, with the measuring tape measure from where you marked the ice beginning to the bottom part of the stick.

You will now have a general idea of the thickness of the ice in that area. Remember ice thickness can change very quickly and can be different thicknesses only a foot away from where you measure. Many things contribute to how thick the ice can be, such as the depth of the water, if the ice is exposed to the air and/or sun, as well as how much snow is on top of the ice. Think of the snow as a blanket. When snow if on ice it insulating it, preventing it from becoming thicker and stronger.

If you or your companion falls through the ice here is what you are recommended to do:

If you can call the Yellowknife Fire Division at 867-873-2222

What to do if a companion falls through thin ice

  • Keep calm and think out a solution.
  • Don’t run up to the hole. You may fall through and then there will be two victims.
  • Use an item to throw or extend to the victim to pull them out of the water, such as jumper cables, skis, rope or push a boat ahead of you.
  • If you are unable to rescue the victim immediately, call the Fire Division at 873-2222.
  • Get medical assistance for the victim. People subjected to the cold may seem fine after being rescued but can suffer a potentially fatal condition called “after drop” where cold blood that is pooled in the body’s extremities starts to circulate again as the victim starts to warm.

What to do if you fall through thin ice

  • Remain calm and look towards the shore/ice edge.
  • Place your hands and arms on the unbroken surface of the ice.
  • Work forward on the ice by kicking your feet. This will assist in keeping your body horizontal and help you “swim” out of the hole in the ice.
  • If the ice breaks, maintain your position and slide forward again. If this doesn’t work – keep trying.
  • Once you are lying on the ice, don’t stand up. Instead, roll away from the hole.
  • Crawl back to your tracks, this will ensure that your weight is spread out until you are on solid ice or on shore.
  • Seek medical assistance.

Remember to check out the City of Yellowknife Page for updates of ice measurements

Use this information at your own risk.


About the author

Kyle Thomas

Kyle grew up in Yellowknife and is a local entrepreneur, writer, baker, and Yellowknife Advocate who is addicted to learning as much as he can about the community and sharing it with anyone who'll listen. In 2009 he developed A website all about living, working and thriving in Yellowknife for residents, newcomers, and visitors.

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