Wet start to 2023 putting a damper on winter sports in Ottawa-Gatineau

People make their way along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. A wet start to 2023 has dampened prospects for winter sports in the capital. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press - image credit)
People make their way along the Rideau Canal in Ottawa, on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. A wet start to 2023 has dampened prospects for winter sports in the capital. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The wild swing in holiday weather has finished with a wet start to 2023 for people who love snowboarding, skiing and skating in Ottawa and Gatineau, Que.

The turn from snow to rainy weather set back the flooding work of the 40 volunteers at the Fisher Park outdoor skating trail during what is usually their busiest time of year.

Scott Bradley, coordinator of the Fisher Park Outdoor Rink, said they'd started building a bed before the snow and rain, but will now have to wait until the temperature drops below –5 C before they can flood it again.

"We're all keen to get at it. The most popular two weeks of the skating season are when the kids are off school," Bradley said.

"It's disappointing for us as volunteers when the weather is like it is, but it's out of your control."

Cross-country trails 'struggling'

Snow groomer Dave Adams with the Kichi Sibi Winter Trail said the recent turn in the weather has been awful for maintaining the urban winter trail connecting the Canadian War Museum to Westboro Beach.

"We're struggling," Adams said. "It's so warm that to put a machine on the trail would wreck it. Not only wreck the trail, but it would probably damage our equipment."

Dave Adams/Submitted
Dave Adams/Submitted

According to the National Capital Commission (NCC), grooming resumed on some portions of the Gatineau Park trail network on Monday.

The NCC is advising visitors check its website for trail closures and condition reports.

Alpine season went downhill 

Camp Fortune in Chelsea, Que., has closed for a total of four days so far this season — first due to a power outage related to the large snow fall around Christmas Eve, and again for two days over the New Year weekend because of rain.

Over the weekend, crews had to dig a ditch to prevent flooding, and moved man-made snow on some runs. Other runs that were open thanks to the Christmas snowfall now have bare patches.

Erin Boucher, director of Camp Fortune, said some ski classes have had to be cancelled, but there are still opportunities for those who want to learn.

"Spring skiing in January: it's not where we want to be but it's perfect for young skiers, perfect for new skiers, a little bit slower," Boucher said.

She said they're waiting for another drop in temperature so they can begin making snow again, and hopefully expand from eight to 20 runs.

Rideau Canal still a waterway

In an emailed update on the Rideau Canal Skateway, the NCC said the thaw of the last few days and recent snowfall contributed to a "significant loss of ice," leaving remaining ice "porous and of poor quality."

The NCC said it's unable to predict an opening date at this time.

According to the NCC, the skateway needs an average temperature of –15 C over 48 hours, followed by stable temperatures around –10 C or lower to thicken the ice.