Skating downhill -- really fast!

Ice cross came to Ottawa last weekend.

Photo Roman Romanovich

Photo Roman Romanovich

The crowd loved it.

The town went nuts for it.

And why not!  

Photo Roman Romanovich

Photo Roman Romanovich

It's not every day you see skaters hurtling downhill at 75 kph.

Photo Roman Romanovich

Photo Roman Romanovich

Red Bull sponsors the international ice cross races under the name Crashed Ice.

Photo Roman Romanovich

Photo Roman Romanovich

Ottawa hosted the 2017 world finals.  

The track is set up in the ravine between the Parliament buildings and the Chateau Laurier.

A hundred-and-eighty-five years ago, Colonel By and his engineers found a way to bring the Rideau Canal down from Dow's Great Swamp to the final destination at the Ottawa River.

The land above the locks is flat enough that the stretch of nearly 8 kilometres becomes the Rideau Canal Skateway in the winter.

But once you get to Wellington Street, it's a sharp drop to the river.  Even when the temperature is 20-below, the water runs free.

The course begins with a steep drop alongside the Chateau Laurier.

It takes a sharp turn and a further drop...

 then hurtles along the line of the canal locks.

It's not downhill all the way.  That would be suicidal!

Photo Roman Romanovich

Photo Roman Romanovich

 In fact there's spots where the track rises sharply and the skaters grab some air as they go over top.

Photo Roman Romanovich

Photo Roman Romanovich

That is, those who don't lose their momentum -- those who do lose it face a tough climb in skates.

Saturday night, some 27,000 people showed up to watch Crashed Ice.  They started to arrive in mid-afternoon.

They took their places along the track.

And they waited.

They weren't disappointed.

There's one way that Red Bull Crashed Ice could be made even more exciting, of course.  Next time, maybe we'll see them race in kilts!

Winterlude

Winterlude

The National Capital region's annual winter festival began the first weekend of February, and stretched on for three weeks.  It's been a great time -- big crowds, fun events. I wish I had taken in some of the concerts and viewed the ice sculptures and seen yesterday's dragonboat races on ice! What I did get to see was Hockey Day in Canada, in which over 150 games of shinny were placed on the canal between 8 and 9 a.m. yesterday. 

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Ottawa: a perfect afternoon at Lansdowne

Ottawa: a perfect afternoon at Lansdowne

Statistically, the bridge between January and February is the coldest week of the year, but when unseasonably warm temperatures closed the Rideau Canal Skateway, the Scottish Society of Ottawa moved Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate to Lansdowne Park Skating Court. If you pipe it, they will come! And we had three pipers -- all on skates.

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Saskatoon: Wi' a hundred skaters, an' a', an' a'

Saskatoon: Wi' a hundred skaters, an' a', an' a'

Last year, Saskatoon was declared "Kilt Skate Capital of Canada." For the Third Annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate -- and the celebration of Canada150 -- the Saskatoon Highland Dancing Association redoubled its efforts and drew over a hundred kilted skaters among the 300 who gathered at Cameco Meesawin Skating Rink on a Saturday afternoon perfect for skating.

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Ottawa Changes Venue -- and a crack team goes into action

Ottawa Changes Venue -- and a crack team goes into action

When it comes to organizing outdoor kilt skates, Mother Nature always has the last word. And so, with last week's warm spell continuing into the weekend across Eastern Canada, the Third Annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate had to be moved off the Rideau Canal. We're moving it to the Lansdowne Park Skating Court, where we held it last year.  It's a great place for a kilt skate: refrigeration coils to keep the ice from melting; Zamboni service to keep the ice smooth; changing rooms to keep skaters warm; electrical outlets to keep our costs down.

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Toronto's first Sir John A Skate brings out the Scots

Toronto's first Sir John A Skate brings out the Scots

alk about making a big entrance in the big smoke! Toronto's first-ever Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate took over one of Canada's most famous skating rinks at Nathan Phillips Square. It was an unseasonably warm afternoon.  The refrigeration coils and the Zamboni maintained an ice surface that was fine for skating.

 

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Montreal launches the 2017 season

Montreal launches the 2017 season

The morning of Saturday, January 14 dawned windy and cold.  Certainly cold enough to put colour to the cheeks -- both upper and nether. Nevertheless, some hundred people braved the winter weather to launch the 2017 kilt skate season at Montreal's Old Port for the Third Annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate in that city.

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Lloydminster's First Annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate

Lloydminster's First Annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate

With the temperatures in the previous week in the minus-42 range, Kendra Jones McGrath wasn't sure how many people to expect for the Lloydminster's inaugural kilt skate. The great thing about Canadians, though, is we tend to be infinitely adaptable to the vagaries of winter.  After a cold spell of 42 below zero, when the temperatures rise on the weekend to a balmy minus-11, well the weather seems almost tropical.

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Then there were 7: Lloydminster joins kilt skate family

Then there were 7:  Lloydminster joins kilt skate family

Another city has stepped forward to host Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate, bringing the total across Canada to seven -- the highest number yet seen in a growing winter tradition. Lloydminster is a city of 30,000 that straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. The kilt skate will be held at Bud Miller All-Seasons Park.  "The City of Lloydminster clears the ice on the lake for outdoor skating," says Kendra Jones McGrath, who owns and operates the Jones Studio of Pilates and Highland Dance. "There is also an indoor spot with a fireplace to warm up." 

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Scottish Government supports kilt skates across Canada

Scottish Government supports kilt skates across Canada

“More than five million Canadians trace their ancestry to Scotland,” says Chris Maskell, Scottish Government representative. “We’re incredibly proud of that Scottish heritage, and we want to celebrate the enormous contribution that Scots and those of Scottish descent have made here in Canada – perhaps none more so than Sir John A. Macdonald.” The Scottish Government is keen to help the Scottish Canadian community maintain their connections to Scotland.  “This year marks the 150th birthday of Canada, but it is also Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology,” says Maskell. “There’s never been a better time to come and visit Scotland.”

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Hogman-eh! rings in 2017

Hogman-eh! rings in 2017

The Scottish Society of Ottawa has been throwing a hogmanay party for five straight years now.  For the third year, it was held at the Aberdeen Pavilion in Lansdowne Park. Each time it gets bigger and better.  With this year's "Hogman-eh!" coinciding with big celebrations on Parliament Hill to launch Canada's 150th birthday party, the organizers wondered if the public would come out in big numbers. They soldiered on with the set up at the Aberdeen pavilion. The banners...The stage...And a team led by Jenny Bruce, who is travelling the world displaying "The Scottish Diaspora Tapestry."

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Hogman-eh! Ottawa celebrates New Year's Scottish-style

Hogman-eh! Ottawa celebrates New Year's Scottish-style

Should auld acquaintance be forgot?  Not when Ottawa gets together for another great New Year’s Eve celebration at the Aberdeen Pavilion. For the third straight year, the Scottish Society of Ottawa will host its “Hogman-eh!” celebration at Lansdowne Park.  As in past years, thousands of people are expected to gather in the old “Cattle Castle” to bring in the new year with live music, dancing, fireworks, and special entertainment for the kids.

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Skating Season opens in Ottawa

Skating Season opens in Ottawa

The Rideau Canal is not frozen yet. It will be a few weeks before we'll be able to glide down the Skateway. But the City of Ottawa has opened its rinks at City Hall and Lansdowne Park.  The refrigerated coils keep the ice cold so we can get our first outdoor skating experience of the season.  At night we come out to the Aberdeen Pavilion where,  last January, we held our second annual Sir John A's Great Canadian Kilt Skate.

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St. Andrew's Gathering at Sir John A.'s House

St. Andrew's Gathering at Sir John A.'s House

Each year at around St. Andrew's Day (November 30), the Scottish hordes descend from the Hill (or up from the Valley) to occupy a grand house overlooking the Ottawa River.  They eat the food, drink the whisky, and make their announcements, then roll up their sleeps, hike up their kilts and get ready to present several weeks of Scottish themed activities in the Nation's Capital.

Once again, His Excellency, Howard Drake, British High Commissioner, and Mrs. Gill Drake opened their home to those celebrating the patron saint of Scotland.

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