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   Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Safe Travel on Winter Roads

Roads in northern Saskatchewan are an important link to our province's natural resources, economic and tourism development opportunities, and providing access to isolated northern communities.

The Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure (MHI) works with local contractors to construct and maintain winter roads. Dragging, blading and packing start on the overland portions as soon as the muskeg freezes. Some sections of these roads are routed across frozen lakes. Ice clearing commences once ice depths have reached 46 cm of clear blue ice. Regular ice depth monitoring is carried out until the ice depths have reached 76 cm. This ice depth allows crossing of weights up to 34,500 kg.

Heavy Loads on Ice

Do not travel on closed winter roads

Closed roads are not regularly inspected and may be unsafe for travel.

Use extra caution

Winter roads follow the natural terrain and sharp hills and curves are regularly encountered. Muskegs flood and pressure ridges develop and shift without warning. Be prepared to stop at all times.

Keep centred, keep moving and leave space

Ice is significantly weaker near the snow windrows. Always drive just right of centre on an ice road and move over slightly for oncoming traffic. Loads over 7,000 kg GVW traveling in the same direction on an ice road should keep a minimum distance of one kilometer apart. It is also important to remember not to park a vehicle or to store shipped goods on the ice. This can increase risk of the ice breaking.

Slow down for ice and stop for water

The maximum speed on ice roads for all loads exceeding 7,000 kg is 15 km/h. A fast moving vehicle can cause a wave under the ice that can break the ice in front of them when it encounters the shoreline, a sandbar or even the wave created by another vehicle coming in the opposite direction. It is important to slow down when approaching the shoreline to avoid cracking the ice. If you see water on the ice, do not proceed as it may be an indication of trouble ahead.

Load security

All loads must be properly secured and extra fasteners should be used to prevent the possibility of load movement and to ensure that loads remain secured when traveling on uneven or slippery surfaces of winter roads.

Fines for damages caused by over weight loads or speeding

Damage to ice roads caused by commercial vehicles exceeding the speed limit or the posted maximum load is punishable by fines as defined in the Highway Traffic Act.

Ice road opening dates

Accurate predictions for ice road opening dates are extremely difficult. The time required to achieve an ice depth of 76 cm depends on weather conditions, such as snow cover, and varying temperatures that affect the rate of ice formation.

  • The Wollaston ice road usually opens the first week of February depending on weather and ice conditions.
  • The Fond du Lac ice road usually opens in early February with reduced weights. Full weight capacity is normally achieved about two weeks after initial opening.
  • The Uranium City ice road is opened following the completion of the Fond du Lac section (Normally mid February).
  • All winter roads are officially closed March 31st or earlier depending on ice conditions. MHI does not maintain or recommend travel after this time due to the changing ice and muskeg conditions and early spring storms that can block the ice roads and strand travelers.

Travel Tips

These are a few of the things that you can do to increase your personal safety:
BEFORE your trip:

  • Check road and weather conditions - call the Highways Hotline for up to date conditions, and check local weather forecasts.
  • Check your vehicle - make sure that it is mechanically safe for the trip. Make sure that you have enough fuel to get to your destination. There are very few re-supply points.
  • Load survival kit and gear - always carry a survival kit, extra dry clothing and emergency equipment.
  • Make sure that someone knows your travel plans, and your time of arrival. They should also know what to do or who to call if you do not arrive on time.
  • Satellite phones provide the only reliable communication in the far north. In an emergency, they can be a valuable asset. If you often travel in the far north, you should consider renting or purchasing one.


DURING your trip:

  • Obey all signs and instructions - winter roads, especially ice roads have special rules and signs. Make sure that you read, understand and obey them. They are for YOUR safety and the safety of other drivers.
  • Check for changing conditions - several hours may lapse between starting your trip and arriving at your destination. Talk to other travelers or call the Highways Hotline for updated conditions.

Important Numbers

  • ABDLP ( Road Services Manager)
    (306) 763-5787
  • Ministry of Highways & Infrastructure,
    Athabasca Area Office
    (306) 953-3262
  • Spill Control Center
    1-800-667-7525
  • Points North Landing - Main Office
    (306) 633-2137


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