When you live in the second-coldest capital in the world, it helps to embrace winter by enjoying some of the many outdoor activities Ottawa has to offer.
The most obvious of these is Winterlude, of course, but we’re blessed with a natural environment that makes all kinds of winter fun easy. Here are a few suggestions to help you make the most of our wintry ways.
Any list of winter events has to start with Winterlude, especially since it begins on Feb. 2. Running for three weeks (mostly on weekends), Winterlude is our true winter celebration, marking its 40th anniversary this year.
While the focus is on skating on the Rideau Canal, other highlights include the Crystal Garden ice-carving competition, the bed race, the ice dragon boat festival, and Snowflake Kingdom. As a bonus, the Canada 150 rink on Parliament Hill remains open and the Mosaicanada exhibit at Jacques Cartier Park has been transformed into a snow and ice sculpture exhibit.
Many of the activities are free and there is a decidedly family focus to the event. You can get details here.
Open for more than a month now, we’re fortunate to have such a vast wilderness right at our doorstep. The park’s winter trails include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing & snow biking, as well as hiking trails, spots for winter camping and even downhill skiing at Camp Fortune.
The park website is updated daily and offers helpful information from the best places to start your outing to length of trails to type of wax to use and the amount of snow base.
Other cross-country skiing
Yes, Gatineau Park is a great spot for many outdoor activities, but if you don’t have a car or only have time for a short outing, there are many spots around the city to get your ski fix. You can find several options in this Ottawa Citizen story.
This year is also the 40th anniversary of the Gatineau Loppet, an international cross-country ski competition where close to 2,500 skiers of all ages and levels come together on the trails of Gatineau Park. A member of the Worldloppet league, it is part of a circuit of the 20 biggest cross-country ski races around the world. Held the weekend of Feb. 17-18, it offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snow biking courses.
Other skating options
The canal is at the mercy of Mother Nature and the Parliament Hill rink can be tough to get tickets for, but there’s always the rink at city hall. Benefitting from refrigeration under the ice to help keep it from melting, it’s a safe bet just about any time in winter.
For something a bit more adventuresome, the Lac-des-Loups Patinage outdoor trail is proving to be a popular draw for those who want to skate through the forest. Built by Quebec resident Dave Mayer, the three-kilometre trail is in its second year and stretches through the “backyard” of Mayer’s property about 45 minutes from Ottawa.
Closer to home, there’s also skating at Rideau Hall, Lansdowne Park or Ben Franklin Place in Nepean.
And then there’s tobogganing
Sure, you can head to the neighbourhood bump for a slide, but for some real fun, check out one of the many fabulous toboggan hills in the region. You can find a map of them here, along with directions, ones that are free versus paid, safety tips and more.