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Enjoying the skateway in 2011. Photo courtesy C. Miller
Enjoying the skateway in 2011. Photo courtesy C. Miller

Rideau Canal Skateway opens today

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This month's 'January thaw' was followed by colder temperatures. Enough, apparently, to put the final freeze on Ottawa's famous Rideau Canal Skateway.

Organizers said a 2.2 kilometer section would be open to the public as of 7 a.m.

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When the canal is open, banners flap in the wind, blades scrape on ice and there are plenty of happy skaters.

Today the National Capital Commission opens its 43rd season of this popular Ottawa tradition: nearly five miles of wide-open skating through scenic sections of this city. Weather permitting, it's come one, come all - free of charge - day or night.

Although the NCC does a lot of flooding and grooming, the canal ice is largely dependent on environmental conditions. The longest run ever was 90 days in the early 1970s. More recently, skating seasons feel like a guessing game, with an average length of 45 days.

As a result, the NCC has made a point of adding more temperature-neutral events to February's major Winterlude Festival.

A few years ago, the City of Ottawa even decided it was time to build an artificial outdoor ice rink fronting city hall. That "rink of dreams" now ensures at least some skating is possible, even if canal ice is too soft, or too thin.

The forecast for the rest of January looks promising. It should stay cold enough to open more skateway soon, in addition to the modest section that people began enjoying this morning.

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