The season is starting late. Two years ago, we were skating the canal on New Year's Eve. The latest was February 2, 2002. Just couple of weeks ago, the canal was buried in snow. The ice was too thin for maintenance, and the temperatures refused to drop low enough to hurry the freezing process along.
When Ottawans were jogging by the canal in their t-shirts on Christmas Eve, we feared that the canal might not be open in time for the Winterlude festival, which begins next Friday, January 29.
Our Brazilian friend, Bernardo, feared that perhaps skating season would never arrive on the canal. Bernardo wants to savour all things Canadian. The other day he flooded an outdoor community rink and played his first game of shinny (a blog about that will come). Yesterday he strapped on the snow shoes at the Mackenzie King Estate. He embraces the Canadian winter in all its aspects, and it would have been a travesty if he wasn't able to cross "canal skate" off the to-do list.
So it was Bernardo who came to us this morning with the news that the Skateway would be officially opened this morning. He's going to test it out tonight -- will go skating and enjoy a BeaverTail and hot cider. This is a quintessential Ottawa experience in the winter.
To see why we in Ottawa love skating the canal, have a boo at this 30-second video. It gives you a sense of the expanse of the skateway -- and how you can have it all to yourself some mornings. Winterlude begins next week, and with it will come the festival crowds. It's going to be a great time for kilt skating!
The National Capital Commission is very conscientious in preparing the canal for the skating season. They begin work in October, when most of the water is drained from the canal. They have to wait until Mother Nature does most of the work, and won't open the skateway until there is at least 30 cm of clear ice -- enough to support the machinery as well as thousands of skaters who will come for Winterlude.