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Concession stands and skate rentals will also be open to skaters. Photo: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum
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For the first time in 20 years, NCC opened full 7.8 km length of Rideau Canal Skateway on opening day

Ottawa has seen some of the season’s coldest weather to date this past week, and as such many Ottawans have been anticipating the opening of the Rideau Canal Skateway for its 52nd season. The National Capital Commission (NCC) announced in a news release on Jan. 13 that the entire 7.8 kilometres of the Rideau Canal Skateway would be open as of 8 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 14. The skateway’s opening will allow for University of Ottawa students to get some fresh air and get some exercise amid the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions.

View of the Rideau Canal from the Corktown Footbridge. Photo: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum

The NCC recommends that all skaters wear face coverings when at all possible and states they will respect all current public health measures. These measures will not, however, affect the canal’s other features, including skate rentals, concession stands, and picnic tables, which will be added back to the attraction. 

For the canal to open, the ice needs to reach a thickness of 30 cm and temperatures must be in the -10 to -20 degrees Celsius range for 10-14 consecutive days. 

Last season, the skating season was shorter than usual due to a mild winter, spanning only from Jan. 28 to Feb. 22. The 2016 season was even shorter, spanning only 18 days. As climate change continues, the NCC is finding ways to maintain as long a skating season as possible. On Thursday, they announced a partnership with Carleton University to find new solutions to these challenges. 

Since Ottawa is experiencing a significantly colder winter than last year, the canal is opening a full 14 days earlier this year. Additionally, the skateway is immediately opening in its entirety, whereas last year, it only allowed access  to the full 7.8 km part way into the season. This is the first time in 20 years that the full canal will be accessible on opening day.

Students of the U of O were eager to get back to winter activities on the canal, especially since COVID-19  restrictions have recently gotten more severe due to the impact of the Omicron variant.

Skaters on the Rideau Canal. Photo: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum

Matthew Goldsmith, a second year human kinetics student at the University of Ottawa and local Ottawaian, works as a skate patroller along the canal. He explained what he believes the canal means to the Ottawa community during the pandemic:

“The canal stayed open throughout all the lockdowns so far, so it’s a really great resource for people in Ottawa to stay active and get out when other options like gyms and other recreational activities have been cancelled.”

A mother ties her child’s skates before they hit the canal for a long skate. Photo: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum

Pascal Morimanno and Peter Noel are two second-year students who hit the ice bright and early, right at 8 a.m. for the opening. Morimanno described the canal as a blessing for students right now. 

“It was like ‘here you go, here’s a way to get outside and get some physical activity and enjoy it.”

“For me it’s the perfect way of getting away and going out into kind of a semi-nature, you’ve got the water or the ice, it’s great,” added Morimanno.

Skaters line up to experience the classic Beavertail on the canal. Photo: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum

Noel shared Morimanno’s appreciation for the canal, reiterating its value to the student community throughout the pandemic. 

“It’s great to have an outlet that is so near campus where you can go and be physically active, where you can see other people and just have fun in an active and a recreational environment. It’s something that I find in the pandemic is really important for your mental and physical health.”

For more information on parking, O-train access, and more click here.