Winter Safety Tips

Whether you hit the trails or ice fish or skate on a pond, here are a few winter safety tips to keep in mind before venturing out on frozen water or snowy trails.

Goddard Park Winter

Winter is one of the best times to enjoy our parks! With serene snowy landscapes and ice-covered ponds, winter provides scenic splendors with an array of exciting activities. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice fishing are among the many outdoor activities that residents and visitors can experience at state parks and recreation areas across Rhode Island. As you prepare your adventure, remember to also consider these cold weather safety tips to make your time outside more enjoyable:

There is no such thing as 100 percent safe ice!

You cannot tell the strength of the ice simply by its looks and thickness, the daily temperature, or whether or not the ice is covered with snow. The strength of ice is determined by several factors such as the chemistry of the water being salt or fresh, local climatic factors such as wind, snow, rain, and temperature fluctuations which can vary considerably from day to day, the presence of currents such as at stream inflows / outflows, and along streams or rivers, the presence of springs, then size and depth of a lake or pond, the distribution of the weight or load placed on the ice, and the signs of expansion cracks.

Ice Safety Tips:

  1. Never assume the ice is safe.
  2. The only safe ice is at a rink.
  3. Never skate on an untested lake or pond.
  4. The ice should have minimum of at least [6] inches.
  5. Never skate alone.
  6. Only skate during the day or if an area is illuminated.
  7. Know the body of water, nearby street, and where the nearest location is to go for help.
  8. Never use ice for a shortcut.
  9. Never go out onto the ice after an animal or toy.

Ice Emergency Tips:

  1. Call 911!
  2. Do not try to rescue the victim.
  3. Try to calm and reassure the victim.
  4. If with a responsible adult, have the adult return to try and assist the victim from shore.
  5. Provide victim with something to help them stay afloat such as plastic milk or soda bottles, or a spare tire.
  6. If the victim is stable and afloat try to send something to reach and retrieve victim such as a rope, extension cord, ladder, branch, boat or tying clothes together.
  7. If victim is retrieved to shore, take steps to keep them warm (change clothes, wrap in blanket etc.) until rescue personnel arrive.

Dress for the weather

When in the outdoors, especially in low temperatures, dress in layers and wear a warm hat and gloves. Hypothermia is caused by exposure to cold weather, wind, rain, or submersion in cold water. It can set in when the body core temperature reaches 95 degrees Fahrenheit and is marked by shivering, dizziness, trouble speaking, lack of coordination, confusion, faster heartbeat and shallow breathing. It is important to look for these symptoms in children and the elderly who may not be focused on this hazard. If hypothermia is suspected, call for help immediately; move the victim to a warm environment, remove wet clothing and cover the individual with warm layers of clothing or blankets.

Winter Activities At RI State Parks


The George Washington State Management Area ski trails are open daily from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., weather permitting. Trail maps are available on-site. Cross-country skiers must bring their skis and equipment, as rentals are unavailable in the management area. Parking is available for 200 vehicles, and heated restroom facilities are available while the recreation area is open for skiing. Skiers may call DEM's 24-hour recorded telephone line at (401) 568-2085 for up-to-date information about trail conditions.

In addition to its cross-country ski trails, the nearby Pulaski State Park includes several hilly areas where the public can enjoy sledding, hiking, and snowshoeing. However, these activities, as well as animals, are not permitted on the ski trails. While this area is the only state facility offering groomed and tracked ski trails, Colt, Goddard, and Lincoln Woods State Parks offer open areas where patrons can enjoy snow-related recreational activities such as hiking, sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.

George Washington Management Area also provides designated trails for those operating snowmobiles. Snowmobiling is also permitted on the roadways in Arcadia, Burlingame, Wickaboxet, and Woody Hill Management Areas, Burlingame State Park and Campground, Lincoln Woods State Park, and on open fields at Colt State Park. All snowmobiles must be registered by DEM's Office of Licensing and Registration, located at 235 Promenade Street in Providence. For registration information, call (401) 222-3576 or visit the office on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Be sure to review park and management area rules and regulations for restrictions and timing for snowmobiling at state parks and management areas.