The 52nd season of skating on the Rideau Canal Skateway is underway.

Thousands of skaters braved the cold temperatures to skate on the 7.8 km stretch of the skateway after it opened for the season at 8 a.m. Friday.

"Oh, I think it's fabulous," said Taunia Curtis while out for a skate. "I'm super excited to have it open. I love the canal."

The full 7.8 km stretch of the canal is open from the National Arts Centre to Dow's Lake and Hartswells Locks, the first time in over 20 years the full canal was open on the first day.

"The buildup to opening day, it's incredible," said Bruce Devine, NCC Senior Manager, Facilities and Programs. "You feel that energy, and the NCC staff are well, they're so excited."

One of the skaters out on the ice Friday afternoon was Junaid Bhat, who just moved to Canada from Kashmir last April. It was the first time he had ever been on skates.

"It's my first proper winter here. I'm used to cold but I'm not used to this cold," said Junaid, adding while skating was scary he was excited to experience something new.

Six-year-old Lily Newton joined her dad for a skate on the canal during a break from online school.

"This is her lunch break right now and they always encourage us to get offline and get outside," said Neil Newton.

"Do you like skating?" Newtown asked Lily. "Yes!", Lily replied.

Rideau Canal Skateway

Beavertails stands and concession stands are open this year on the Rideau Canal Skateway, while all changing facilities and firepits remain closed due to the COVID-19 public health measures.

"We so need to get outside and have fun," said Curtis. "So yah, I love the exercise. I love the fresh air. I love the cold, and it's just beautiful."

"Oh, it's wonderful!" said Alex Peach. "It's the perfect day for it because it's really sunny. So that just makes it more enjoyable."

The NCC is recommending people wear a mask or face covering while on the skateway, while masks will be mandatory in washrooms and in lines at concession stands.

“The NCC is particularly pleased to mark the official opening of the 52nd season of the iconic Rideau Canal Skateway this year, knowing the important role that safe outdoor activity plays in supporting mental and physical well-being in the nation’s capital during the pandemic," said NCC CEO Tobi Nussbaum.

Last winter, the Rideau Canal Skateway opened on Jan. 28 and closed on Feb. 22.  The 26 days of skating was one of the shortest seasons ever for the Rideau Canal Skateway. In 2016, the green flag flew for only 18 days.


This winter, the NCC says skate rentals and food and beverage concession stands will be open along the Rideau Canal Skateway.

Picnic tables will also be set up, "at 50 per cent capacity," said the NCC.

Due to public health measures, changing facilities and fire pits along the Rideau Canal Skateway will remain closed this winter.

"Sanitization stations are installed inside washroom facilities, and bidirectional staircases have been made available, where possible. Signage also requests yielding to oncoming traffic at single staircases," said the NCC in a statement.

"It is recommended that everyone wear a mask or face covering while on the Skateway. Use of masks is required inside washrooms and in lines at the concession stands."