Answers To 3 Common Questions About The Use And Construction Of Ice Roads

4 June 2015
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Blog


If you are visiting the Northwest Territories throughout most of the year, your only option for getting there will be flying. Fortunately, between the end of December and the end of April, you can drive. However, the road you will use will disappear soon after April and appear once again the following year...because it is a human-made road that is built of ice:

Do You Understand Why Ice Roads Exist?

An ice road is defined as a man-made pathway that is created over a body of water in polar areas. Their use allows the cost of household necessities to be more affordable.

Otherwise, the distant areas with fewer of people would be forced to fly in everything they need to buy. Obviously, that would increase the cost significantly and in turn, there would be a chance of running out of necessities during the rest of the year.

How Are Ice Roads Built?

The process of building an ice road is complex and requires precise calculations and freezing temperatures for several weeks. Because most of the vehicles on the roads are large delivery vehicles, the ice must be at least 40 inches thick before the roads open to all traffic. Earlier in the season, snowmobiles and domestic vehicles are often permitted access, but that permission is provided or denied based on the most recent data for the roads.

Radars determine the precise level of ice thickness and crews work from early December to build the ice roads. Workers also drill into the ice for additional information on its depth and strength. Snow's insulating properties make the roads easier to navigate after it has fallen and been removed.

Drivers are limited to a high speed of about 22 miles per hour on part of the roads and the speed limit often reduces to just a few miles per hour in some areas. Repeated use of the ice that forms naturally, when combined with the efforts of humans to measure thickness and remove snow, produces ice roads.

Engineers and other professionals regularly check the roads to look for possible breaks, cracks or water spots that would interfere with a safe driving experience.

Why Aren't Regular Roads Built For These Remote Areas?

The isolated areas of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk are only two of the many areas that are not easily accessible during most of the year. The harsh climate, boggy soil and relatively low populations of the different areas mean that it is not financially or physically feasible for permanent roads to be constructed.

For example, the ice-road to Tuktoyaktuk from the nearest drivable area is approximately 185 kilometers. Therefore, during the time that the ice roads exist, they allow a year's worth or more of important necessities like food, fuel and medicine to be brought in.

In conclusion, ice roads provide crucial access to household essentials each year. They are patrolled and examined regularly for dangerous developments and it is not unusual for part of an ice road to be shut down suddenly. If you are planning a trip on an ice road, it is best to call ahead and watch weather reports to be sure you will have access to the roads you need.

To learn more, contact a company like D W Jensen Drilling Ltd.