A man can thank a group of quick-thinking snowshoers and a ski pole for saving his life after he fell through the ice in Cape Breton over the weekend.

Julien Rouleau was snowshoeing with friends when he broke through the ice at the Uisge Ban Falls, a popular waterfall near Baddeck.

"I thought that was the end of life to be honest," he said.

Rouleau said there was so much snow and ice he didn't realize he was standing on top of the falls. He crashed through and found himself at the bottom treading water.

"I couldn't concentrate under the fall because it was beating on me so hard, that I went out into the pool that was inside there and just tried to find a place to get out," he said.

Snowshoer saved after falling through ice

Julien Rouleau, left, was saved by a group of passing snowshoers after he fell through the ice at Uisge Ban Falls near Baddeck. (Courtesy Vince Forrestall)

"There was nowhere I could get out."

Above, Rouleau's friends watched in horror.

Vince Forrestall was with another group of snowshoers and saw the whole thing unfold.

"The ice gave way and he fell in, he went down like it was a water slide, right underneath the ice," he said.

"You couldn't see him, you couldn't hear nothing. You were thinking 911, but you only got a certain amount of time."

Forrestall said everyone formed a chain and stuck a ski pole into the water.

Rouleau said he used every ounce of strength to grab it. He was brought to safety — cold and wet —  but not hurt.

"I can definitely tell people that life is so precious," he said.

"You don't know how special it is until you almost have it taken away from you."