One of Canada’s most iconic tourist attractions may not be open for very long this year, with officials blaming the situation on repeated snowfalls and a very late start to winter in Central Canada.
The Rideau Canal Skateway’s 2015-2016 season still hasn’t kicked off in Ottawa, setting the National Capital Commission (which is in charge of the skateway) up for one of the latest openings in recent memory.
The last time it took this long for the proper amount of ice to form on the canal was in 2008, when it officially opened on Jan. 25. The latest opening ever was in 2002, when skaters weren’t permitted on the ice until Feb. 2.
The temperature has certainly been cold enough in Ottawa for the past two weeks for ice to form, NCC spokesperson Jasmine Leduc said. Crews have been working consistently to clear and flood that ice in the early mornings.
The problem has been repeated snow-falls, which cover the canal and insulate it, keeping the ice from getting thicker. It’s still not quite thick enough to support large equipment and thousands of people, Leduc said.
On Wednesday, however, the NCC tweeted that it is still hoping to have the the 7.8-kilometre skateway open in time for the start of Winterlude – Ottawa’s annual winter extravaganza which begins on Jan. 29.
Since it was created in 1971, the canal skateway has never failed to open, but some had speculated this might finally be the year with no skating after a downright balmy December in the nation’s capital. Last year’s season was a record-breaking one, with 59 consecutive days of skating.
The NCC has issued repeated warnings to locals and visitors who may be tempted to venture out onto the ice before it’s declared safe, and is continuing to advise strongly against it.
When the canal does finally open, users can head to the NCC’s new interactive website to track ice conditions, see social media updates with the hashtag #canalmoments and learn about the science of keeping the ice safe.