For 47 seasons, citizens of Ottawa have been enjoying the Rideau Canal Skateway – the world’s largest outdoor skating rink according to the Guinness Book of World Records. From Beavertails to maple syrup frozen on a stick, the canal presents a joyful time for both locals and visitors. With the 48th season approaching and Ottawa having had experienced bone-chilling temperatures for more than a week. It’s hard to imagine how the Skateway could be taking so long to be open, especially since a record cold of this length hasn’t been seen since 1993.
While the temperatures have been well below zero, the preparation of the ice began long before this city’s cold spell. If you’re wondering what could possibly be influencing the delayed opening of the canal take a look at the outline of this winters canal influencing factors!
Near the middle of December, temperatures dipped below freezing and crews began prepping the ice for the Skateway. When the temperatures rose, and the ice couldn’t properly freeze things took a turn for the worse. When preparing to open the canal the ice’s surface must reach a minimum thickness of 30 centimetres to support the average weight of 20,000 skaters that venture out for a skate on any given day. To get the ice to this necessary thickness, it takes at least two weeks of temperatures below -10°C or -15°C along with the proper grooming to put the thickness within those parameters.
Over the past five years, the earliest opening of the Skateway was December 31st of the 2014 season and the latest opening was January 23rd of the 2016 season. The 2014 season saw such an early opening due to the long stretch of cold weather Ottawa had experienced beforehand, with the average temperature below freezing from the first week of December. The 2016 season saw a later opening due to the average temperature being just above or near freezing for the majority of December and beginning of January, this, in turn, prohibited the ice from entering its deep freeze stages until much later in the month.
As we have recently experienced a cold snap that is long enough to support the preparation of a safe ice surface and the fact that crews have finally begun flooding the surface again, what do you think the holdup is and how much longer do you feel we will have to wait before the Rideau Skateway opens?