Cold water season is here: know the dangers

Bodie Shandro is a CSGA, Canadian Ski Guide, part-time heli ski guide with Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing near Blue River and Off Piste Camp Coordinator at Sun Peaks Resort.
Bodie Shandro – Canadian Ski Guide, and Owner Paddle Surfit Stand Up Paddle Professionals.

With the change of seasons upon us, following what has been one of the best winters for skiers in the past decade, the record snowfall will soon be melting and our local lakes and rivers will be open and flowing with power.

That being said, if you are an adventurous soul and like to hit the water early, please let me remind you that cold water can kill you. It can actually kill you within seconds. Any water below 77 F (25 C) can affect your breathing. Any lower, and those temperatures can affect your ability to control your breathing and doing so becomes progressively more difficult.

The 1-10-1 phrase has been developed and adopted by many professionals and organizations around the world. Recognizing these phases of cold water immersion is vital to understanding your ability to survive.

1 – Cold Shock: An initial deep and sudden gasp followed by hyperventilation that can be as much as 600 to 1,000 per cent greater than normal breathing. You must keep your airway clear or run the risk of drowning. This phase will pass in about one minute. During that time concentrate on avoiding panic and regaining control of your breathing. Wearing a lifejacket during this phase is critically important to keep you afloat and breathing.

10 – Cold Incapacitation: Over approximately the next 10 minutes you will lose the effective use of your fingers, arms and legs for any meaningful movement. Concentrate on self-rescue initially, and if that isn’t possible, prepare a way to keep your airway clear to wait for rescue. Swim failure will occur within these critical minutes and if you’re without a lifejacket, drowning will likely occur.

1 – Hypothermia: Even in ice water it could take approximately one hour before becoming unconscious due to hypothermia. If you understand the aspects of hypothermia, techniques of how to delay it, self-rescue and calling for help, your chances of survival and rescue will be dramatically increased.

Be prepared and wear a wetsuit or dry suit when playing in cold water. Always paddle with a friend. Know your limits.