EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With the first significant winter storm of the year officially in the books, you might want to break out your snowshoes or cross country skis and hit the trails.

But the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is reminding everyone to ensure they’re safe while doing so.

According to the National Safely Council (NSC), extensive exposure to cold tempratures, moisture and wind can cause hypothermia or frost bite.

“Hypothermia is a serious thing,” DEM spokesperson Mike Healey said.

Healey said it’s dangerous when someone’s internal body temperature drops below 95 degrees.

“All of a sudden, we can have trouble speaking, we can lose our coordination, we can be dizzy, disoriented,” he explained. “Those are all signs that you need to warm up.”

If you plan on venturing outside this winter, Healey suggested dressing warm and in layers. He also said you should stay hydrated and keep a hat and pair of gloves with you.

“Even though it doesn’t feel like you need to drink water, you still need to drink water in the winter,” Healey said.

Right now, Healey said it isn’t safe for people to skate or walk on ice-covered lakes and ponds because it hasn’t been cold enough to form a safe layer of ice.

“Ice really must have a thickness, a uniform thickness of about six inches,” he explained. “You’d be talking about a whole week of, you know, 20-degree days before you have that kind of thickness.”

Healey said everyone should steer clear of ponds and lakes for now, even if it looks like it might be safe.

He also suggested participating in winter activities with a group, since accidents can happen.

The DEM regularly checks whether ponds and lakes are safe for skating. Click here to check the current ice safety »