Safety must come first in winter activities on the lake

In all seasons, Brome Lake is a source of beauty and enjoyment. But last month’s fatal accident, which took the life of 76-year-old Shefford resident Robert Viau, is a tragic reminder that the lake presents real risks as well.

While Brome Lake is generally safe for winter activities and vehicles, there are some danger zones that should be avoided. Renaissance Lac Brome secretary Pierre Beaudoin says that people should avoid areas where tributaries enter the lake, and other areas where the ice is known to be unstable. The bay south of Fisher’s Point, where the all-terrain vehicle in which Mr. Viau was a passenger went through broken ice, is one such area.

Beaudoin said it is not known why the ice in that area is so unstable, but it should be avoided. This map indicates many areas that should be avoided, even if the ice on well-used parts of the lake is thick enough for winter activities – 20 cm to 50 cm – as it was when the accident occurred.

According to the Canadian Red Cross, many factors contribute to the thickness and stability of ice including water depth, currents, chemicals, the presence of docks, logs or rocks, changing air temperature and shock waves from vehicles traveling on the ice. The strongest ice is clear blue in color, while grey ice indicates the presence of water.

The map of Brome Lake shows potentially risky areas in purple, where caution is advised even when the rest of the lake is safe.
Some do’s and don’ts:
  • Ice should be at least 15 cm thick for walking or skating alone, 20 cm for skating parties or games and at least 25 cm for snowmobiles. Check it out before venturing out.
  • Stay off the ice after dark or when visibility is poor, and don’t go out alone.
  • Drivers of all-terrain vehicles must carry a valid license or permit, and riders must wear a helmet at all times. The law requires that the vehicle be registered with the SAAQ and carry liability insurance. The vehicle should also be equipped with safety equipment, such as life line that can be used to pull someone out of the water. Drinking and driving laws apply.

Town of Brome Lake tests ice thickness to ensure that it is safe only on areas managed by the town, like the skating area near Douglass Beach, and for events run by the town.

For all other activity on the lake, it is the responsibility of users to ensure conditions are safe. Obey the law and use common sense and caution at all times.