The Winterlude festival is on now in Ottawa. The 2018 edition is the 40th. I used to think that Winterlude was just about the canal ice conditions getting very good for my skate to and from Carleton University, when I was a student there. Now, it’s a whole lot more. It has become a tradition to check out the ice sculptures in Confederation Park, and now Winterlude has become a stop on the international ice sculpture competition circuit.
Here’s a view of the canal, which is called the Rideau Canal Skateway when it’s flooded and maintained for skating along its length from the Rideau Locks near the Parliament Buildings to Hartwell’s Locks near Carleton University. That’s 7.8 kilometres of skating in one direction (more, if you skate around Dow’s Lake). The tourist bumf calls it the world’s largest skating rink. I took this picture from the Mackenzie King Bridge. The hut on the ice where people are queuing and lacing up skates is where you can rent skates and sleds. Skate rental is for folks “from away” – whether they use them or not, every Ottawan owns a pair of skates! Farther along, spanning the canal, is the Laurier Avenue Bridge, which opened in 1900. It’s been modernized this century, but the original iron arches are distinctive in green. The Cartier Square Drill Hall is unmistakable beyond and to the right of the Laurier Avenue Bridge. It was built in 1879. Ottawa men signed up for Canadian expeditionary forces fighting in the Boer War, the First World War, and the Second World War from this drill hall. The Governor General’s Foot Guards and the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa are based at the Cartier Square Drill Hall. During the summer, they march from here to Parliament Hill in their red tunics and bearskin caps. Taking pictures of the changing of the guard ceremony is a highlight of the trip for visitors.
The Rideau Canal Skateway is a big part of Ottawa life in the winter. All Canadians talk about the weather – probably too much – but when Ottawans do we include a canal ice conditions report. On my skating commute to work in the morning, when I walk to the office carrying my skates I’m often asked, “How’s the canal?” Skating on the canal is a small town aspect to city life. Have fun at Winterlude!