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Rideau Canal Skateway opens for first time since 2022

People skate on the Rideau Canal Skateway on its opening day Sunday. Skaters flocked to the ice, one year after warm and wet weather prevented the 7.8-kilometre skateway from opening at all in 2023. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)
People skate on the Rideau Canal Skateway on its opening day Sunday. Skaters flocked to the ice, one year after warm and wet weather prevented the 7.8-kilometre skateway from opening at all in 2023. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press - image credit)

After nearly 700 days without proper ice, the Rideau Canal has opened for skating again.

After initially announcing the skateway would open at 9 a.m. Sunday, the National Capital Commission (NCC) published an update on their website noting the launch had been pushed back to 12:30 p.m.

"The Skateway needs a bit more time to fully freeze after overnight flooding," the NCC said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

According to the NCC, the public will be able to skate on a section between Fifth Avenue and Bank Street, shorter than the initial 1.9-kilometre stretch announced Saturday that would have run from Bank Street to the Pretoria Bridge.

BeaverTails kiosks will also be open, but skate rentals are not yet available, the NCC said.

In a statement Saturday, NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum said he was "thrilled" that the skateway's 54th season would soon be underway.

"Our team learned a lot from the challenges we faced last year and were able to put measures in place, helped by more seasonal temperatures, to make it happen this year," he said.

Last year's warm, wet winter meant the 7.8-kilometre skateway didn't open at all for the first time in its more than 50-year history. The lack of Ottawa's iconic icy pastime was an economic and cultural blow for the area.

There have been years of warnings about climate change shortening the skating season, as well as years of efforts by the NCC to do something about it.

COVID-19 rules also hung over the canal in the two most recent skating seasons.

The ice needs to be at least 30 centimetres thick before the canal can open safely — and even thicker if the quality is poor.

People take to the Rideau Canal on Family Day in Ottawa on Feb. 18, 2019.
People take to the Rideau Canal on Family Day in Ottawa on Feb. 18, 2019.

People crowd the Rideau Canal on Family Day 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Weather station will collect data

While this winter started out mild as well, colder temperatures over the past two weeks combined with "excellent work" by NCC crews means there's a stretch that's now thick enough for safe public skating, the commission said in its statement.

Skaters will also notice a weather station collecting environmental data this year, the NCC said.

That data will be used to "calibrate numerical models predicting climate change effects on the skateway's performance and resilience," according to their statement.