BY AMY ALLEN
In many cities across North America, winter is a time when people stay indoors, but not so in Ottawa. Winterlude is the city’s annual homage to all things ice and snow. This year, it runs from January 29 to February 15.
Rideau Canal Skateway
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Historic Site of Canada, the Rideau Canal turns into the world’s largest skating rink when temperatures drop. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people skate its 7.8 kilometres, from Dow’s Lake in the south end of the city to the Mackenzie King Bridge in the north. Chalets and stove fires along the route offer the opportunity to warm up, while BeaverTails pastries and hot chocolate keep skaters fueled up. Skates can be rented at several locations along the Canal.
•The Winterlude Triathlon on January 30 challenges athletes to compete in an eight-kilometre skate, an eight-kilometre ski, and a five-kilometre run. Think you’ve got what it takes? Sign up at winterludetriathlon.ca.
•Amateur hockey teams play four on four at The Great Canadian Beaver Cup Pond Hockey Classic from February 12 to 14 at Dow’s Lake.
•Fifty teams of racers decorate themselves and a bed, then careen down the Canal in the annual Accora Village Bed Race on February 6.
Dozens of sparkling ice sculptures, carved by masters from around the world, stand proudly on display at Confederation Park. You can watch those artists at work during the 29th annual International Ice-Carving Competition, which takes place over opening weekend, January 29 to 31. The finished products remain on display until the end of the festival. After nightfall, the sculptures take on a magical life of their own when they’re backlit by multi-coloured lights.
•The Winterlude Opening Ceremony, which includes DJs, a massive dance party, roaming buskers, and maple taffy, takes place on January 29.
•Flora and Fauna, a series of light art installations inspired by Canadian nature, illuminate the night for the duration of the festival.
North America’s largest snow playground awaits the whole family at Jacques-Cartier Park during Winterlude. The kids (and the young at heart) can speed down the park’s 20 snow slides and check out snow sculptures themed after Canada’s North. Kicksledding, skiing lessons for kids, play structures, and mazes are all part of the Snowflake Kingdom’s charm.
Other Things to Do
•Fill your belly with warm, delicious goodness at the annual ByWard Market Stew Cook-Off. Ten bucks will get you access to an all-you-can-eat feast of chili, soups, and stews by local restaurants. After, you can vote for your favourite.
•Put your athletic prowess to the test at Winterman on February 14. You can participate in a marathon, half-marathon, relays, a 10K, a 5K, or a 3K run.
•Sample craft beers by brewers from around the region at the Gatineau Winter Beerfest, which takes place on opening weekend from January 29 to 31.
•On January 31, Cracking Up the Capital challenges teams to break the Guinness World Record for most snowmen built in one hour. Visit crackup.ca to see the comedy festival’s full schedule of events.
•Downtown Rideau’s Chill Factor is a huge part of Winterlude celebrations, sponsoring everything from live jazz to theatre to wine events to fine cuisine. See downtownrideau.com for the full line-up of events.
Tips and Info
Ice Conditions. On warmer days, the Canal may be closed. Check the website (listed below) before you head out. A flag system installed along the Canal also alerts visitors to ice conditions.
Skate Rentals. Kiosks at Dow’s Lake, Fifth Avenue, and Mackenzie King Bridge offer skate rentals.
Transportation. The OLG Sno-Bus offers rides between the Rideau Canal Skateway and other official Winterlude locations, free of charge.
Attire. Dress warmly. You might feel nice and toasty while you’re skating, but it can get cold quickly.
For the full line-up of events, locations, and other information, visit winterlude.gc.ca or call 819-997-0055.