From rock climbing to outdoor skiing and skating, there are so many ways to enjoy winter in Canada’s capital region.
Winterlude: From Feb. 3-20, 2017, Canada’s capital enjoys Winterlude, an annual celebration of winter. A special highlight for children of all ages is SnowFlake Kingdom located in Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau with its collection of huge snow slides. Not to be missed either is the International Ice Carving competition where carvers from around the world descend on Confederation Park in downtown Ottawa to transform blocks of ice into spectacular works of art. Visit during the day and again at night when the sculptures are lit up, for two very different perspectives. New this year: Don’t miss the Ice Dragon Boat Festival on Feb. 17-18, 2017. For the first time in North America, dragon boats will race down the frozen Rideau Canal Skateway. Be there to cheer them on!
Ice Skating: Skating on the largest naturally frozen skating rink in the world is a ‘must-do’ on many visitors’ bucket lists. The Rideau Canal Skateway is open to skaters daily from roughly late December to late February, weather permitting, at no charge and there are change huts, skate rental shacks and snack stations all along its 7.8 km (4.8 miles) length. Check ice conditions before you head out.
If ice conditions don’t allow for skating on the canal, you can head to Ottawa City Hall where the Senators Rink of Dreams, a refrigerated outdoor skating rink, is open from November to March from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. complete with LED lighting, a heated change hut, picnic tables and benches. Lansdowne’s Skating Court also offers a longer skating season that stretches from roughly mid-November to mid-March. Free open skating sessions are available daily or you can learn how to skate through one of its skating programs. Skate rentals are not available at these sites.
Cross-Country Skiing: Ottawa offers cross-country trails right in the heart of the city and there are over 150 km (93 miles) of cross-country ski trails in the Greenbelt area encircling Ottawa. You can use the trails for free and all are suitable for beginner and family outings.
Just across the Ottawa River from downtown, Gatineau Park is a mecca for cross-country skiing enthusiasts, with over 200 km (124 miles) of groomed trails and heated shelters. Pick up a ski pass (daily or seasonal) at the Visitor Centre in Chelsea, Québec. The Gatineau Loppet takes place Feb. 17-19, 2017 and is Canada’s largest cross-country ski event, bringing some of the very best distance racers from Canada and the world to the Ottawa-Gatineau area. There are a variety of distance races in the classic and freestyle categories open for registration in addition to the Gatineau Loppet Challenge.
For super endurance, consider the Canadian Ski Marathon from Feb. 10-12, 2017. This three-day, 160 km (99 miles) event is open to skier participants of all ages. The trail for this marathon is only groomed once per year between Lachute and Gatineau, Québec. 2017 is the ski marathon’s 50th anniversary!
Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding: For downhill enthusiasts, Ottawa is like an urban resort, with challenging hills within easy driving distance of downtown, including Camp Fortune and Mount Pakenham.
Snowshoeing: Gatineau Park has trails reserved especially for snowshoeing so strap on your snowshoes and go! Pick up a Snowshoe pass (daily or seasonal) at the Visitor Centre in Chelsea, Québec.
Dog-Sledding: Come enjoy a memorable dog sledding experience at Escapade Eskimo in the scenic Outaouais region only 75 minutes from Ottawa.
Hiking: Gatineau Park offers three groomed trails for winter hiking and is a lovely place for a walk in a snow covered forest.
Winter Camping and Cabins: Gatineau Park also provides adventurers with campsites, cabins, yurts and four-season tents accessible via ski and snowshoe trails. Reservations are required, so be sure to book ahead!
Indoor Rock Climbing: Altitude Gym brings the world of indoor rock climbing to another level and to a one-of-a-kind location.
Red Bull Crashed Ice: If you’re in Ottawa in March, you won’t want to miss this thrilling 2017 event. On March 3-4, 2017, the final leg of the Red Bull Ice Cross Downhill World Championship will take place on the famous Ottawa Locks of the Rideau Canal.