For perhaps the first time in half a century, the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, Canada is facing the possibility of a completely closed season due to a lack of ice. Attracting up to a million visitors annually, and Guinness lists it as the world’s largest natural skating rink, the Skateway is a 4.8-mile section of the Rideau Canal that connects Ottawa, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River and sees more than one million visitors per year.
Skateway opening dates are weather dependent. The ice must be nearly a foot thick and usually requires sustained sub-zero temperatures for up to two weeks. However, Ottawa has experienced one of the warmest winters on record and there is not enough ice to create the Skateway.
Canada’s National Capital Commission (NCC) has yet to finish the season. Still an NCC spokesperson confirmed to CNN that “continued above-normal seasonal temperatures and current ice conditions prevent us from opening the Rideau Canal Skateway this week.”
The lack of a skating rink is an extreme example of a growing trend of later and later seasons, as the skating season has only opened before January 1 six times in the past 26 years.
The NCC is already working with Carleton University to address the impact of climate change on the Skateway with a four-year project that includes two years of data collection before modeling to predict future ice behavior. Finally, the academics will provide solutions for adapting the Skateway.
While officials have yet to issue a final call for the season, CTV reports that the upcoming record warm temperatures mean hopes for the Skateway are fading fast.