Ice Skating Experiences at the Canal

Rideau Canal Skateway, Dows Lake, 2021 Rideau Canal Skateway @ Dows Lake

The Rideau Canal Skateway is known as the world’s largest skating rink. It's 7,8km long when the whole length is open. But there must be ideal winter weather conditions to allow it to open. Like constant negative temperatures for several days to create a sufficient thickness of water to freeze. It only opens a section when the ice is at least 30cm thick. Days with temperatures above zero with rain are a disaster for this huge outdoor rink. 2021 was one of the latest openings in the canal history. Maybe it was a combination of mild weather conditions and the pandemic restrictions.

But it opened!

There was 5km open this weekend and I checked it out. Because of COVID-19 all food stands, skate rentals and changing facilities were closed. But there were lots of benches thorough to let people change into their skates. We have to carry our own boots (no lockers there) so a backpack is definitely recommended. It was not busy since the City is strongly saying that only Ottawa residents should go to avoid crowds. It was easy to keep physical distancing. And masks are mandatory.

Skating under Flora Footbridge, that was built and opened in 2019 Skating under Flora Footbridge. First time!

Every time I go to the canal it's an intense experience. The cold, the ice cracks and bumps, the beautiful eerie scenery, the challenge. Ice skating is not natural to me so I still struggle. This time I tried skating 4 km. I consider it significant progress. Because I did skate 4 km one way + 3.5km back. It was a much better experience than last time. But I got exhausted! And what happens when you get tired ice skating? Your balance is gone. So I fell once, got up, kept going and stopped every now and then to rest. Up until the point I couldn't move anymore without totally loosing balance. My legs got wobbly because of the physical strain. I had to remove my skates and walk the rest of the way to the car. So, yeah, ice skating is intense! Not to mention I was sweating under my ski suit even though it was -15C with a real feel of -21C! ⛄

Getting some rest at the Rideau Canal Skateway, 2021 Getting some rest...

I still think ice skating is one of the hardest physical things I had to learn in my life. Heck, I'm still learning. I cannot do any fancy stuff, I can go forwards and I (awkwardly) stop. And that's it. I try to practice things like one foot glides and C-pushes. Maybe one day I'll be able to do cross-overs. The great thing about the Canal is that there is lots of space to practice! And I have fun!

Another aspect that makes me enjoy ice skating, with all its difficulties and struggles, is that it requires total focus. I can't be anywhere else. And balancing is subtle. Slight changes to the angles of the skates on the ice and the body's center of gravity can accelerate you, stop you or bring you to the floor. If feels like a crazy physics experiment.

With all the indoor rinks closed I'll probably be visiting the Canal every weekend, weather permitting. It's going to be an excellent practice.

#iceskating #learning #challenge #noisymusings #winter


By Noisy Deadlines Minimalist in progress, nerdy, skeptic. I don't leave without my e-reader.