Damaged ice, impending snowfall force Rideau Canal Skateway to close for season

Skaters are silhouetted in a beam of sunlight as they make their way along the Rideau Canal Skateway shortly after dawn on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Rideau Canal Skateway won’t re-open again this winter due to warmer temperatures, poor ice conditions and an impending major snowfall in Ottawa’s forecast.

“The unusually warm weather earlier this week resulted in a significant degradation of the ice,” the National Capital Commission (NCC), which manages the outdoor skateway, said in a news release Wednesday.

“With a major snowfall in the forecast, followed by higher temperatures, our mighty maintenance team can no longer ensure safe ice conditions.”

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The news brings an end to the skateway’s 50th season since first opening in January 1971. Since it opened for the 2019-20 season on Jan. 18, 2020, the popular outdoor attraction was open for 31 skating days, according to the NCC.

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It’s the fifth-shortest number of skating days in a given season on record, according to the commission’s figures.

The NCC began tracking a season’s total number of skating days in the 1995-96 season. The shortest season in the last 25 years was 18 skating days in 2015-16.

This season, the skateway never opened in its entirety, only reaching 7.4 of the total 7.8 kilometres. Fluctuating temperatures over the past two months forced the NCC to open, close and then re-open certain sections of ice.

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The entire length of the Rideau Canal had already been closed to skaters since the weekend, as milder temperatures hit the national capital.

The NCC says the skateway welcomed more than 381,000 visits this season. That marks the skateway’s second-lowest attendance in a given season since 1992-93, when the commission began tracking total visits.

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