Ottawans are perhaps best known for their resilience and enthusiasm about embracing all that winter has to offer. And this winter, especially amidst the ever-changing public health restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many families will choose to bundle up and head outdoors more than ever.
With fewer indoor activities to choose from due to the fact that many gyms, restaurants, cafes, and cinemas have been ordered to close during different phases of the public health restrictions, outdoor activities may be the only feasible, and certainly the safest option for injecting some fun back into the winter months.
The Bob Blake Team has loads of experience and knowledge about every neighborhood in the City of Ottawa and have put together this round-up of some of our favorite outdoor winter activities for people of all ages to enjoy safely in Ottawa this winter.
The City of Ottawa has 57 designated toboggan hills throughout the city. The city’s website has a complete list of Ottawa’s sledding locations with a map and a brief description which gives information about parking, the style of the hill, any dangers or obstructions to be aware of, etc.
Helmets are encouraged when sledding and the Kids Play Safe website offers tips and information on how to choose the right helmet for sledding.
There are 2 major trail networks in Ottawa that are considered multi-use winter trails which are free for the public to use for
● Fat Biking
● Cross-Country Skiing (groomed for both classic and skate/nordic skiing)
These multi-use paths (MUPs) are designed and groomed to keep all users happy regardless of their mode of transportation. It’s vital for users to stick to the lane on the pathway that is meant for their boots, skis, or tires.
The SJAM Trail runs along the Ottawa River parallel to the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway from the Canadian War Museum along with the Sir John A. to Westboro Beach. This pathway offers 16 km of groomed trails for walkers, skiers, bikers, and snowshoers. Its amenities include the Westboro Beach tobogganing hill, the John Ceprano rock sculptures, and the café at the War Museum.
In Ottawa’s east end, the Ski Heritage East trail runs 14 kilometers along the forested banks of the Ottawa River in Orleans, between Shefford Road and Trim Road near Petrie Island. Community volunteers groom the trail for winter recreational activities, including cross-country skiing (skate and classic), snowshoeing, fat biking, and walking.
Outdoor skating in Ottawa is a great choice this winter when we’re all doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. One of the challenges of skating outdoors is finding a convenient spot to put on your skates. And during the pandemic, we recommend that families skip the change rooms to avoid any unnecessary close contact with others by adding these simple items to your packing list when heading out to skate outdoors in Ottawa this winter.
Pack an old bath mat or piece of carpet to sit/kneel on when putting on your skates in the snowbank at the outdoor rink. It’ll keep your knees and bottoms warm and dry instead of covered in ice and snow before you’ve even stepped onto the rink.
Bring along a rubber bin with a lid on it to store your boots and skate guards in while you’re skating. That way your boots will stay dry and be easy to spot when you’re ready to leave the outdoor rink.
If you’re used to grabbing a paper towel in the change room to wipe your skates when you’re done, this year you’ll need to include a small towel or rag instead to wipe off all snow and ice from your skate blades when you’re finished skating outdoors. Also, remember not to store your skates with your plastic guards on them to avoid rust.
Not sure where you can skate outside in Ottawa this winter? The City of Ottawa provides a list of the outdoor skating rinks throughout the city on its website. And visit the NCC website for information about the Rideau Canal Skateway conditions.
It seems like snowshoeing is gaining in popularity every year and Ottawa has great trails to give it a try. Some great areas for families to enjoy include the Stony Swamp Conservation Area (Jack Pine, Beaver, Chipmunk, and Sarsaparilla Trails), Mer Bleue Conservation Area, Gatineau Park (14 snowshoe trails covering 60km), The Sir John A. Macdonald Trail, and Ski Heritage East Trail (see Multi-Use Trails above) and South March Highlands – Kanata Lakes.
The City of Ottawa has 1 dedicated facility for x-country skiing. The Terry Fox Athletic Facility (at Mooney's Bay Park), located at 2960 Riverside Drive has 5 km of groomed and well-lit trails for night skiing. It also offers rentals and lessons. As mentioned above, groomed trails for both classic and skate skiing are also open to the public along the SJAM Winter Trail and Ski Heritage East trail.
No matter what winter activity you’re gearing up for this winter, the team at Bob Blake hope you’re staying warm and safe!