Beaver Tails part of Ottawa’s winter culture



tracery tong/metro ottawa


University of Ottawa student Kirstyn Allen, left, and first-time Beaver Tails licensee Greg Norris take a bite out of a Winterlude tradition.


Growing up in Ottawa, there was never any question as to Greg Norris’s favourite part of Winterlude.

“I grew up in Ottawa and I got a Beaver Tail every time I went skating,” he said. “Beaver Tails and hot chocolate — it was the only thing on my mind.”

The Rideau Canal Skateway is set to open, but just as iconic to Ottawans are the Beaver Tails that have become synonymous with skating on the canal.

More than 75,000 of the pastries are sold during Winterlude every year.

The tasty treats devised by Grant Hooker with his wife Pam and introduced to the ByWard Market in 1978 have become known worldwide.

Norris, 23, is preparing for his first year as a Beaver Tails licensee, working along the canal for Winterlude. He’s braced for an onslaught — training over 300 seasonal staff and operating two of the six kiosks that will be set up on Dow’s Lake and near the ice sculptures in Confederation Park.

The pastries are float-cooked in cholesterol-free canola-oil and garnished and visitors like Jessie Lush make it a point to get one every time she arrives here from Newfoundland.

So does Mississauga resident Sheldon Maddox. “I come to the market every time,” he said.

Most people hear about Beaver Tails through guidebooks, but city residents also often recommend the snack to visitors as a part of the Ottawa experience.

Hooker gets goosebumps whenever he hears someone call his business a city institution.

“It’s not what we set out to do,” said Hooker, who still works out of the flagship store in the ByWard Market.

He’s excited to open for the canal season but is cautiously optimistic about the effect unseasonably warm temperatures have had on the ice. “We’re prepared for whatever Mother Nature brings. We’re like farmers,” he said.