The Rideau Canal Skateway will not open this winter
The Rideau Canal Skateway will not open this winter, making this season the first ever without the popular pastime and tourist attraction.
The National Capital Commission (NCC) said Friday afternoon the closure was disappointing but the weather had not cooperated.
“This winter’s higher-than-average temperatures, snow, and rain…contributed to a thin and porous ice surface,” it tweeted.
“Recent ice testing shows that the ice surface remains uncertain. Further efforts are unlikely to produce a different result.”
This winter in Ottawa was one of the warmest in decades, with more than 100 inches of snowfall on Friday – weather conditions ill-suited to the formation of thick, slippery ice.
The NCC first dispatched a team of workers armed with brooms and shovels to clear a short section of the frozen waterway for skating in 1971.
Also, for the first time, the capital’s annual Winterlude festival, which ended on Monday, had none of its main attractions at all.
The shortest skating season on the canal to date was 2016, when the rink was only open for 18 days. The latest opening date was February 2, 2002.
Last winter, the entire 7.8-kilometer skate track opened in mid-January and lasted 41 days through early March.
The NCC bills it as the world’s largest ice rink, calling it “an iconic and popular attraction” as it closed its chances for the season.
“We are already looking forward to welcoming visitors to the world’s largest ice rink next winter.”
Canal’s future on thin ice
As winters grow warmer and wetter in Ottawa, the NCC has experimented with new ice-making methods and also updated and strengthened its climate change strategy.
“This year has taught us a lot about the impact of milder winters on the skateway… [We] remain committed to applying what we learn going forward,” read Friday’s press release.
Warmer weather has shortened the average skating season at the UNESCO World Heritage site by about four days per decade, typically early in the season, according to a long-term risk assessment commissioned by the NCC.
According to the report, February starts could become the norm, while skating seasons of 40 days or more will become the exception by 2050. (The report’s authors did not address the possibility that the skate park might remain closed altogether.)
“In the longer term, the NCC should determine the threshold at which investment in ice surface preservation exceeds the benefits provided and consider diversifying winter programming around the channel,” the report reads.
It mentions the possibility of hosting concessions and other winter activities such as cross-country skiing alongside the canal on the NCC’s trails and the Queen Elizabeth Driveway.