While most festival organisers ask the weather gods to favour them
with nice, balmy conditions, the same can not be said for the people who plan Winterlude
in Ottawa, Canada.
These organisers pray for icy, frigid weather. In fact, the colder the
Praying for cold weather is not surprising, considering that
Winterlude takes place in the second coldest capital in the world (first place is taken by
Mongolia's Ulan Bator) and is a
unique celebration of snow and ice.
A fun-filled, family event - held in the beginning of February -
Winterlude celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2003.
It was in 1979, when the National
Capital Commission (NCC), a crown corporation that promotes Canada's capital,
conceived the idea of a winter festival to showcase Ottawa during the colder months. It
also became a way to help Ottawans deal with the long, icy winter that the city endures
But what started out as a small town festival has quickly grown into a
world renowned event that has won 27 awards from the prestigious International Festival and Events Association.
At the heart of the celebrations is the Rideau
Canal Skateway, a historic waterway that becomes the world's longest skating rink
(equivalent to 200 Olympic-sized ice venues) once the cold weather sets in and the canal
The Frozen Rideau Canal
The Rideau Canal itself stretches 202 km from Ottawa to the city of
Kingston and was constructed by thousands of Irish and French Canadian labourers between
1826 and 1832.
The idea of skating on the canal originated with Douglas Fullerton,
the chairman of the NCC in 1970. That winter he sent a crew down to the frozen Rideau
Canal with shovels to clear some of the snow for skating. It turned out to be a big hit
with the public and that year was the first skating season on the Rideau Canal.
Today, the Skateway attracts one million visitors each year and the
almost eight kilometres of skating surface, beginning in downtown Ottawa and ending at
Carleton University, is now dotted with concession stands, skate and sleigh rentals,
shelters and rest areas.
It's the perfect showcase for many of Winterlude's activities, such as
figure skating exhibitions, skate races and relays. In addition, Winterlude is the perfect
time to indulge in a Beaver Tail. Not a real one of course, but rather, Ottawa's own world
famous pastry which can be found at special concessions on the canal.
The Clarica Ice Café is also located on the canal. Carved from 110
blocks of ice weighing close to 15,000 kilograms, this very cool café includes a five
meter long ice bar and a sculpture gallery. Many weary skaters find it the perfect resting
spot after a long trek down the canal.
|If skating isn't your cup of tea there are many other
things to do that don't include donning a pair of skates.The Canada Snow Sculpture
Competition features snowy works of art by thirteen teams of professional snow-sculptors
from each Canadian province and territory.
Each team is given a maximum of 43 hours to
carve and complete their sculpture from an enormous block of snow. You can see these
gigantic masterpieces at Major's Hill Park.
And speaking of big, how about taking the kids to the largest snow
playground in North America?
It's called Snowflake
Kingdom, in Jacques-Cartier Park, and it's the place to go to get some warm, furry
hugs from Winterlude's official mascots; the Ice Hog Family.
At the playground, the young and the young-at-heart can try out the
giant snow slides, the dogsled and horse-sleigh rides and take in special shows at the Ice
Hog Legend Theatre.
Ice Hog Family
There are also many sporting events, ice-carving competitions and even
a Mardi Gras party among the other things to do in and around Ottawa during Winterlude
So sharpen your skates, take out your mitts and bundle up to join the
over 650,000 people that will visit the largest winter festival in North America.
Winterlude was founded in 1979 by the National Capital Commission (NCC) as a means of
celebrating Canada's unique northern climate and culture.
By AP Rodrigues.
Images used with the kind permission of the National
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