Skating the Rideau Canal this weekend (and what to do if I can't)
February 5, 2019 12:09 PM   Subscribe

I have plans to be in Ottawa this weekend so that I can skate the length of the Rideau Canal. So I was very dismayed to see that the entire canal is closed today. What are the chances that I'll be ice skating this weekend? What should I do if I can't?

I guess it's been a warm start to the week? It seems like it will be colder later this week and into the weekend so I'm wondering what my odds are for actually being able to skate the canal when I arrive. Is it normal to close the canal for a day or two and then re-open it again in short order?

In the event that I'm not able to skate, does anyone have any recommendations for other wintry outdoors activities I could do instead?
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred to Travel & Transportation around Ottawa, ON (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It is quite normal for the canal to be closed to skating on and off throughout the winter. It's closed today because it was already about 6C at like 6am and went up to about 11C this morning. But the forecast for the weekend is mostly sunny and highs around -10C, so pretty perfect. Keep checking for updates here.

As for other things to do, Winterlude is going on from Feb. 1-18. Bunch of outdoors wintery things to do downtown and across the river in Gatineau. Schedule is here.

And speaking of Quebec, if you're really into skating and have access to a vehicle, might I suggest some patinage en f├┤ret?

As for just regular things to do in Ottawa, if you're into restaurants or drinks, Hintonburg is one of my favourite areas. Walkable and interesting neighbourhood.
posted by fso at 12:33 PM on February 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

Yes, it's normal for it to open and close for a few days at a time throughout the season. I'm not sure what the status will be this weekend as warm temps and rain are predicted thurs/fri before getting colder again on the weekend. I'd guess it will be open at least on Sun, but tricky to predict this far in advance.

You may or may not know already that there are many free outdoor ice rinks around the city that will be open regardless of the weather, including a convenient and nice one right in front of city hall (next to the canal). Make sure you get a beavertail!

Lots of people rent snowshoes or cross-country ski around here. I do neither so I can't advise on details, unfortunately. There are also toboggan hills, and various winterlude activities including spectacular ice sculptures.
posted by randomnity at 12:59 PM on February 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

My feeling is they'll probably open it Saturday if it is at all reasonable because it is Winterlude, but it will depend how early that cold weather rolls in on Friday night. It takes them about five hours to flood and repair the surface overnight and if they don't have cold for that much of Friday night, they may not be able to.

Gatineau Park is quite famed for cross country skiing. You have to rent skis and bring them to the park, though, as there is no onsite rental shop that I know of. Conditions generally might be kind of crap because of freezing rain, but the groomed trails should hopefully be okay.

There's also another natural outdoor rink in Gatineau, near Rue Montcalm. It's no more likely to be open than the Canal, but it's an alternative if the Canal turns out to be slammed busy, which it probably will be if it is open again on the weekend. The intersection between days it has been cold enough for the Canal to be open and warm enough for people to skate without frostbite has been small this year, and this weekend might be one of the best shots people have to actually get out there. Plus, Winterlude.

Also, it's not very wintery, but I never pass up the opportunity to encourage people to visit the Diefenbunker. I just find it delightful.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:41 PM on February 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

There's an outdoor rink at city hall that's refrigerated so it should be skate-worthy even if the canal isn't.

For skiing, there's also the SJAM ski trail on the Ottawa side. You can find up to date xcountry ski conditions across the city here.

My winter sport of preference is snowshoeing, for what it's worth ­čśüGatineau Park's a bit of a mess right now with today's weather but I have high hopes it will be better by the weekend!
posted by quaking fajita at 7:16 PM on February 5, 2019

We ran into the same issue - no skating on the canal while we were in Ottawa. Instead, we skated at the rink by City Hall, and also did some snowshoeing in Gatineau. I'd heartily recommend the latter. I assume Gatineau has snow, but you may want to check.
posted by backwards guitar at 7:26 PM on February 5, 2019

nthing the diefenbunker....and the other fabulous museums.
posted by brujita at 8:26 PM on February 5, 2019

I assume Gatineau has snow, but you may want to check.

Lol. The snow piles from shovelling our driveway are much taller than my head now, so yes, I can confirm we have snow. Ottawa-Gatineau set a new record for snowfall in January, in fact.

(however, it's likely to be covered with a layer of ice now, and I don't know how that works out for snowshoeing/skiing)
posted by randomnity at 8:35 AM on February 6, 2019

I'd also guess a pretty high chance. Because it's Winterlude and because so much of winter tourism relies on the canal being open, they are highly motivated to get it in shape. The forecast for Friday is currently 7c, but I doubt tht it will in reality get anywhere near that.

There is also a new street festival (Fire + Ice) on Bank Street this weekend, which should be great. It's the new winter installment of their annual summer festival (Glowfair). There is also stuff going on in the Market this year, including art installations, which are also new.

I highly recommend skiing along the SJAM. On weekends they rent skis (and fatbikes and snowshoes, I think) from the parking lot at Remic Rapids, which you can get to by taking any transitway bus to Tunney's Pasture (a major transitway stop) and then walking north toward the river. The guy who does the grooming really works to get it in shape for people to use it and it's a great friendly place to go for a ski no matter your level (there are no real hills to speak of, so it's very entry level). They also have nice fire pits on weekend days to (I think, I usually go on weekday evenings after work) sit and have a hot chocolate.

Lol. The snow piles from shovelling our driveway are much taller than my head now, so yes, I can confirm we have snow. Ottawa-Gatineau set a new record for snowfall in January, in fact.

We have so much snow that any and all visitors are welcome to take as much as they want home with them. Please.
posted by urbanlenny at 7:08 PM on February 6, 2019

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