Embracing Winter: The Rideau Canal Skateway


photo from the Rideau Canal Skateway website; click photo to access the site.

While some of you are posting photos of spring bulbs blooming and the rest of us are whining about the endless winter of 2014-15, the folks at the Rideau Canal Skateway are reveling in the setting of a new record, made possible by the relentless cold.

The Rideau Canal runs through the center of Ottawa, Ontario, and for a month or two every winter it becomes a playground for skaters. Access to the ice is always dependent on weather and the length of the season varies.

But this year, the ice at the “largest ice rink in the world” has been open for 55 consecutive days! By February 24, three-quarters of a million people had visited the ice; the canal stretches 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles) through the heart of the city and the ice is swept and flooded regularly to maintain a good surface for skating.

These folks know how to embrace winter!

It seems that everyone carries skates

It seems that everyone carries skates

No need to stop if you're hungry! Kiosks offer food and drink.

No need to stop if you’re hungry! Kiosks offer food and drink right on the ice.

Some sections are packed with people!

Some sections are packed with people! That makes it more difficult to fall!

That's Parliament in the background.

That’s Parliament in the background.

This is how to do winter right!


37 thoughts on “Embracing Winter: The Rideau Canal Skateway

  1. Absolutely, this is how to do winter right! Instead of whining about the cold and ice or dreaming about spring, these people are embracing the moment. Good for them.

    • I love Ottawa. I’ve never been there in the summer and I don’t know if I’ll bother–they do winter so incredibly well. They have a Wintered” festival over three weekends in February that’s stupendous.

  2. Did you take a pair of skates! Looks like a lot of fun. As a young girl , I loved skating ,now that I live in the south,my skates are up on a shelf… Somewhere…😃

    • We did take skates and we did skate. In my heart, I am a world-class skater. In reality, I am “not athletic” and so nervous and tense that I am a very poor skater. But I can say I’ve skated on the Rideau Canal!

    • What’s the book, do you remember? The whole scene is magical–so much energy and fun. They have these little push sleds shaped like sleighs that parents put kids in and skate behind. At one end, the canal opens into a huge frozen pond. It’s all beyond description!

  3. Years ago (before moving from the Mpls/St.P area) I spent most my winter days on skates!!!!! Still love it but I prefer roller skates/indoors now……………a sign of……………….maturity???? LOL!!!!

    • I love ice skating. I tried so hard to be decent at it, even took lessons for a couple years. But, because I started in my 50s, I guess, my tenseness just really held me back. Maybe in my next life . . . .

  4. Shades of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates. Those Canadians are hardy folk. I recall a story about how an amateur ice hockey team skated 35 miles across Georgian Bay to a game on Manitoulin Island, won the game, and then skated 35 miles home the same day.

    • Yes! Hans Brinker–I so loved that story. I had a friend who grew up in Ottawa, near the canal, and his father would skate to work downtown, in his business suit, every morning when the skateway was open. I just love that image. I also love the image of the 70-mile round trip to play ice hockey!

  5. Looks like a magical place to go iceskating. Each winter I plan on going skating, but it has been years ago since the last time I visited a rink. I wonder if those kiosks also offer hot cocao. That would be the icing on the cake 🙂

    • Those kiosks do indeed sell hot chocolate! Your country has such a reputation for ice skating on the canals–does it get cold enough for that to happen anymore? When I was in the Netherlands, I seem to remember being told that it’s pretty iffy most years.

      • No, not for the last years I think. When it’s cold enough, and the ice is save, there’s a tour that visits 11 cities in the north of the Netherlands, and is over 200 kilometres. The last one was in ’97, and each winter lots of people hope for a very cold winter, so we will have one again! Can you imagine skating a distance like that? I would much more enjoy the hot chocolate part 🙂

  6. You gotta love Canadians – they live in ice and snow six months of the year and have enormous fun! One of my upcpming trip friends is Canadian and she is so up-beat! I too thought immediately of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates – it must be a generational thing…. 🙂 What a wonderful opportunity that must be for the locals – always have your skates at the ready! Did you go and did you skate, or like me, does it just appeal?

    • Exactly! The Rideau is right in the heart of this big city and you’re just surrounded by skaters and skating. We were there one winter when it was really warm and the skateway was closed–and the town just felt . . . flat and boring.

  7. We used to ice skate on the creek when I was a child and we could go quite a distance some years. I would do this! Skating is a blast. So is cross-country skiing. People have been skating on the C&O canal this year and the Potomac is frozen for the first time in years. I hope you skated your heart out! What fun and thanks for the great pic’s!

    • It is a blast and we did skate. The sad fact of the matter, though, is that I am a much better skater on an ice rink than in a wide open space like this (and I’m not very good even on a rink!). Even though the ice is maintained pretty well, it’s still outdoor ice and I am still a twitchy, nervous skater. Still, I’m so glad i’ve had the experience!

    • The college where I taught had open ice every day for a couple hours–I used to go skating 3-4 days a week and often there’d be only a handful of others on the ice. Took lessons for a couple of years. I still never got very far with it but I’m so glad I did what I did.

  8. Seems like the perfect example of ” when life gives you lemons….” I love Ottawa but I have never been there in the winter. Greta Photos, as usual!! Have a lovely weekend, Johanna.

    • Some people just go down and walk on the ice! And there are million other things to do in Ottawa in the winter. Well worth a trip, even without the skating!

  9. What a wonderful post! I am very happy when seeing Ottawa photos in winter. It is unknown to me. I have only visited in Toronto thrice. Thank You for this post.

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