OTTAWA -- The Rideau Canal Skateway's 51st season officially begins Thursday.

The National Capital Commission has announced that 2.4 km of the world's largest skating rink, from the Bank Street Bridge to the Pretoria Bridge, will be available starting Jan. 28 at 8 a.m.

But it won't be the Skateway of seasons past. The COVID-19 pandemic means skate rentals, snack stands and fire pits will not be available, and masks will be mandatory on the ice.

The NCC is also asking for the Skateway to be limited to local use for exercise during the pandemic. While the commission's CEO admits they cannot enforce the suggestion, the NCC is asking that only people who live nearby use the Skateway, a rule that is similar to its other outdoor amenities.

Crews continue to work to open the full 7.8 km of the Skateway.