‘The weather got the best of us:’ Ottawa’s Rideau Canal Skateway to stay closed
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OTTAWA – The National Capital Commission says the Rideau Canal Skateway, the world’s largest outdoor skating rink, will not open this season due to warm temperatures, leaving some Ottawa residents disappointed.
“I always skate on it, at least once, twice a week when it’s open,” said Evelyn Burgess, who lives downtown.
“Last year it was open for a really long time, which was really great, and I got out there pretty much every single day.”
But the commission said on Friday that the latest tests showed the ice surface remained unsafe to skate on and that any more efforts to change the situation were unlikely to work.
The warmer-than-usual temperatures combined with snow and rain caused the ice to be thin and porous.
“Despite our best efforts, the weather got the best of us for the first time in our history,” the NCC said in a tweet.
Burgess said she thinks the future of the canal is “a little dicey” as climate change worsens.
“I think it’s going to put the canal use in a pretty perilous position if we are going to be able to use it in the same way that we’ve been using it for decades,” she said.
The commission said it has been both assessing and getting ready for the affects of climate change on the internationally renowned winter tourist attraction for several years, working with Carleton University to collect and analyze data.
But this is the first time the weather has prevented the 7.8-kilometre stretch through Canada’s capital city from opening at all. On Feb. 2, the skateway had already experienced a record-setting delay in opening for the season.
The ice requires a certain number of days below -15 C in order to be safe to skate on.
“This year taught us a great deal about the effects of milder winters on the skateway,” the commission said in a press release.
Cynthia Luna, a newcomer to Canada, said she was really looking forward to a skate through the capital city this year and she’s saddened by the closure.
“We expected to see that kind of event here,” said Luna.
But with fewer cold days in recent winters, the future of the iconic ice rink is unclear.
At the beginning of the century, Ottawa had an average of 41 days below -15 C.
David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, said the models suggest that Ottawa will have just 10 such cold days a year by 2080.
“So we see a dramatic change in both the length of winter and the intensity of the cold,” Phillips said in an interview on Thursday.
For its part, the National Capital Commission said in an online article that it’s considering potential solutions that are used to maintain ice roads.
The ideas including slush cannons, which would pump slush onto the ice early in the season to thicken it, and thermosyphons, which are used in the Arctic to allow cold air flow underneath a building or, in this case, an ice surface.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2023.