The weather has been subarctic across Canada, but for those waiting for the skating season, one of the benefits has been anticipating the opening of the world's largest skating rink: the Rideau Canal Skateway.
For 7.8 kilometres it curves an arch through the centre of Ottawa -- from the Hartwell Locks at Carleton University to the canal's final descent to the Ottawa River in the heart of downtown.
The unusually cold weather through December raised hopes that the canal would open before New Year's Eve, but it wasn't until December 26 that the ice was judged thick enough to allow the crews to clear away snow and begin flooding.
The National Capital Commission, which manages the skateway on behalf of Parks Canada, will not open the public onto the ice until it's capable of holding the crowds in their thousands that can be expected during the skating season.
We've been waiting patiently. And today the NCC announced that the stretch between the Pretoria Bridge and the Bronson Rest Area, including Dows Lake is now available to skaters.
This is a larger area than has customarily been opened at the beginning of the season, and it augurs well that additional sections will soon be opened as well.
The past two years have been among the shortest skating seasons on the Rideau Canal Skateway. Last year, it was open to the public for only 25 days -- the average is closer to 50 days.
So let's hope that there's an upside to abnormally cold weather: an unusually long skating season!