WinterLab allows scientists to study how challenging icy, snowy and cold conditions impact mobility and safety.

WinterLab can recreate typical Canadian winter conditions including sub-zero temperatures, snow and ice-covered surfaces, with winds over 70 km/hour, within the safety of a controlled laboratory setting. Scientists can study winter slips and falls, the use of mobility devices, and the extremes of cold air and wind, without exposing study participants to the risks these conditions pose in the real world.

To add another dimension to this research, the lab’s motion platform can be tilted to create slopes, providing scientists with an opportunity to test how people and devices respond to such circumstances.

Recent Research

WinterLab is used for myriad projects:

  • Development and testing of new winter footwear and improvements to mobility aids, such as mobility scooters and crutches, so that they perform better on inclined and winter icy and snow-covered surfaces.
  • Investigate the usability of Detectable Tactile Surface Indicators (DTSI) in snow and ice condition and examine the safety of DTSI on sloped surfaces.
  • Study the usability and safety of different walking surface characteristics for people with different disabilities.

WinterLab is used for the RateMyTreads winter footwear testing (

Equipment Highlights

WinterLab includes a 4.5m x 4.9m ice surface, with separate control of the ice temperature and air temperature to allow for creation of uniquely challenging and slippery ice conditions, such as a melting ice surface or a snow dusted hard ice surface. WinterLab is typically mounted on a one-degree of freedom motion platform (Tipper) that can be inclined to a 15 degree slope for footwear testing. The lab can also be mounted on the 6DOF motion base if a full range of motion needs to be simulated for a study, for example for studying cross slopes.

WinterLab is equipped with a motion capture system and can be equipped with an overhead robot gantry system that moves with participants as they go about their tasks. The safety harness also includes an active vertical support, that is programmed for the needs of the experiment, for body weight support or to prevent injury in the event of a fall.

Quick Facts

  • 43.4 per cent of seniors report having a disability that limited their activities; 56.3 per cent of those aged 75 and older reported a disability; and many are isolated at home for long stretches during winter months.
  • Over 21,000 Ontarians visit an emergency room because of slips and falls on ice and snow each winter.
  • The physiological effects of freezing temperatures can be hazardous to your health. Canadian seniors over age 85 had up to 16% higher rates of heart attack deaths in winter than in summer, and 19% higher stroke rates.

Recent Publications

  • Islam, S., Gide, K., Dutta, T., Bagheri, S. (2023). The effect of tread patterns on slip resistance of footwear outsoles based on composite materials in icy conditions. Journal of Safety Research. 87:453-464.
  • Cen, J.Y., Dutta, T. (2022). Development and evaluation of a slip detection algorithm for walking on level and inclined ice surfaces. Sensors. 22(6):2370.
  • Bagheri, Z.S., Li, S., Fekr Roshan, A., Dutta, T. (2022). The Effect of Wear on Slip-resistance of Winter Footwear with Composite Outsoles: A Pilot Study. Applied Ergonomics. 99, 103611.
  • Montgomery, R.E., Li, Y., Dutta, T., Holliday, P.J., Fernie, G.R. (2021). Quantifying mobility scooter performance in winter environments. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation. 102(10):1902-9.
  • Bagheri, Z.S., Beltran, J.D., Holyoke, P., Dutta, T. (2021). Reducing fall risk for home care workers with slip resistant winter footwear. Applied Ergonomics. 90:103230.
  • Roshan Fekr, A., Li, Y., Gauvin, C., Wong, G., Cheng, W., Fernie, G., Dutta, T. (2021). Evaluation of winter footwear: comparison of test methods to determine footwear slip resistance on ice surfaces. International journal of environmental research and public health. 18(2), p.405.
  • Huynh, N., Fernie, G., Dutta, T., Roshan Fekr, A. (2021). A novel approach for slip resistance evaluation of winter footwear based on probability of slipping and cost analysis. Safety Science. 137:105133
  • Wu, K., He, S., Fernie, G., Roshan Fekr, A. (2020). Deep Neural Network for Slip Detection on Ice Surface. Sensors. 20(23), 6883.

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