Avoid the dangers of cold weather to keep your winter activities enjoyable

Fresh snowfall can bring silence to any landscape and, temporarily at least, create a picture-perfect scene. As idyllic as these landscapes may be, snow-covered toboggan runs can pose a variety of health and safety threats to outdoor enthusiasts.

As temperatures in Alberta can fluctuate from minus 20 to plus zero in a single 24 hour period, it is a good idea to be very aware of how this temperature variation can affect your surroundings and your winter enjoyment.

Winter brings great beauty but also potential dangers that should be kept in mind and dealt with. Let’s see some examples.


Frostbite occurs when the soft tissues of the body begin to freeze. It most commonly affects the fingers, toes and nose. Frostbite affects skin cells and tissues and can cause serious damage. Frozen skin turns black when cells die due to freezing. Numbness and a painful pins-and-needles sensation occur in areas exposed to cold or cold water for too long. Dressing appropriately for the weather, limiting time outdoors in very cold weather, and maintaining good blood circulation can reduce the risk of frostbite.


Winter weather can lead to slippery conditions. Falls on snow, ice or wet ground are common. When walking, wear shoes with enough traction, avoid icy patches, and invest in walking sticks or microspikes. Quickly wipe up any melting puddles in the house to avoid slipping inside as well.

thin ice

Winter activities may include skating or fishing on a frozen body of water. But it can be difficult to determine how frozen a lake or pond may be. Safety experts advise against going out on the ice alone and heeding posted thin ice panels. If you fall through the ice, try holding on to get back up (ice picks are a good investment) and lay flat on your stomach once out of the water. Anyone venturing onto the ice can carry a whistle to call for help, which is louder than shouting. Hypothermia sets in within 10 to 15 minutes, so it is essential to act quickly. Ropes, boogie boards, a spare tire, and other items can also be used to rescue someone from the ice without going onto the ice itself.


A lack of sun exposure and short winter days can affect individuals’ mental well-being. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, may find the long winter months difficult. SAD surfaces in late fall or early winter and may not go away until early summer. Take the time to go outside, even when it’s cold, to enjoy at least 30 minutes of morning light. It can improve mood. Exercise and find ways to participate in social activities to avoid depressed feelings. Don’t turn to food or alcohol to treat depression.

This content was produced by Creative Metro. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial team.

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Richard V. Johnson