Saskatchewan has a number of ice and winter roads, which are used to transport people and goods over the colder winter months.
- Wollaston Lake (45-55 km depending on route)
- Stony Rapids to Fond du Lac (85 km including over-land portion)
- Fond du Lac to Uranium City (approx. 90 km)
- Riverhurst (2 km)
- Cumberland House – MB border (52 km)
- Athabasca Seasonal Road (185 km)
Check the status of an ice road on the Highway Hotline.
These roads offer an important link to northern communities and economic development opportunities such as mineral exploration.
Ice roads provide access to isolated communities. The operation periods of these roads vary considerably year to year because of weather conditions.
Ice roads usually open in the first part of February, but opening has been as early as the last week of January and as late as mid-February.
Typically, ice roads close for the season on March 31 or until weather allows. While things like snow clearing, packing and flooding can speed up ice formation, the process is largely weather dependent.
When building an ice road, measuring the thickness of the ice and determining the ratio between white ice and blue ice is critical. White ice typically has air bubbles trapped inside, which makes it weaker than blue ice. As a result, certain sections of the road may be open to a maximum, medium or minimum weight load.
Ice clearing can begin once ice depths have reached 25 cm of blue ice. Regular ice depth monitoring is carried out until depths have reached 76 cm. This depth allows weights up to 34,500 kg.
Since snow acts as an insulator, it needs to be removed to expose the ice to freezing temperatures.
The Ministry of Highways works with local contractors to build and maintain winter roads.
One of the biggest challenges is dealing with cracks that form ridges. Ice ridges form due to temperature swings that cause the ice to expand and contract.