Cold weather fun continues across the capital region
National Capital commission photo
Winterlude may be over, but there’s lots of winter left in Ottawa.
Opportunities in Ottawa-Gatineau to find winter-weather adventure abound, and Metro got curious about what people could get up to in the cold.
As it turns out, quite a lot. Over the last couple of years, winter in Ottawa has been bitterly cold, said Rob Christie, the manager at Bushtakah Outdoor Gear, making more opportunities than ever for people to get out into the snow.
“We’ve got good winter weather this year,” he said.
You don’t have to go far to find adventure. Here are four activities that can be done in the capital.
The fastest-growing winter sport, snowshoeing is popular for several reasons, said Christie, an avid snowshoer.
“With snowshoeing there’s no learning curve,” said Christie. “If you can walk, you can snowshoe. It’s a low-impact sport. And you don’t need to have a trail.”
For those who prefer the beaten path, there are lots of no-charge snowshoe trails in the area.
Today’s snowshoes are for the most part made with aluminum frames with stable bindings and tractions systems. Aside from warm footwear and insulating layers, participants need little else in terms of specialized gear, Christie said.
Over 200 kilometres of cross-country ski trails make Gatineau Park one of the jewels of the capital region, said National Capital Commission spokeswoman and cross-country ski enthusiast Kathryn Keyes.
The park, which drew 250,000 skiers in 2006-07, is one of the best places to cross-country ski in the area. A variety of trails accommodate different levels of skiers from beginner to expert. Like snowshoeing, skiing is low-impact, serving as a popular cross-training activity for runners and cyclists, Christie said.
A stop at the visitor’s centre tells skiers the best trails for their trip, as well as locations of all the huts, fire pits and rest areas.
While skiers are required to buy a pass, Gatineau Park offers free parking and is free for snowshoers and hikers.
No crowds. No mosquitoes. The beauty of winter camping is that it’s less crowded when it’s cold outside, said Colin Brooks, a camping gear expert at Mountain Equipment Co-op.
“There’s a fraction of the people there,” said Brooks, an avid winter camper. “I like the quietness of it and when it gets dark early and the peacefulness of it.”
Some of the best winter camping sites in the area are within a half-hour drive, including Brown’s Lake, Lac Phillippe and Taylor Lake, all located in Gatineau Park. But folks that want to spend the night in the cold have to be prepared, Brooks said.
“You need the warm gear and the sub-zero sleeping bags,” he said. “Warmth is a key factor. You have to stay very dry.”
As a boy, Michel Desroches remembers putting on his skates and walking down to the outdoor rink after school.
“It’s tradition for us to be able to skate,” said Desroches, the City of Ottawa’s program coordinator, responsible for public skating.
If the chill on the Rideau Canal Skateway and the city’s outdoor rinks is too cold at times, consider the city’s 32 indoor rinks. With 17 located in the west end and 15 in the east operating 216 hours a week, it’s also one of the most accessible winter sports.
Approximately 74,000 people use the city’s indoor skating facilities annually, an increase of 24 per cent over the last two years, said Desroches.