Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Celebrating Snow and Ice

We took a break for a few days and visited the city of Ottawa which is about six hours north east of our home by car. Ottawa is the second coldest national capital in the world next to Moscow, Russia but it experienced a thaw last week with rain and temperatures well above freezing. Our daughters had been anticipating the annual Winterlude festival for weeks and were most disappointed with the big melt. But February thaws do not last forever, and the long weekend was marked with clear skies, sunshine and very cold temperatures. Never go to Winterlude without your long underwear!

We spent hours outdoors from morning until night taking in the Crystal Garden at Confederation Park in Ottawa and the impressive snow sculptures across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec. In the evenings a light and sound show was followed by an outdoor concert. We watched Jim Cuddy and Roch Voisin on separate nights as they performed live in sub zero temperatures to enthusiastic crowds.

And of course, the biggest attraction was the world's largest skating rink on the Rideau Canal which features 7.8 km (4.8 miles) of ice surface. My eldest daughter skated 10 km in a round trip while I walked carefully on the ice in my winter boots. Kiosks along the route offered food, drink, souvenirs and shelters while police on ATVs and many volunteers patrolled the crowds.

This slide show features more snow and ice than many people in the world will see in a lifetime. The people I saw were having just as much fun as those who travel to warm destinations in the winter. Cold winters are inevitable in Canada and we can complain or we can get out and make the best of it. My taxes were used to pay for this admission free carnival so why not take advantage and join the party?!


  1. Anonymous9:49 pm GMT-5

    We visited Ottawa about ten years ago in the summertime, and enjoyed our visit and wanted to go back. Wish I could tolerate the cold. Winterlude looks like a lot of fun!

  2. Ruth--it all looks quite magical. I am all in favor of a winter festival--I do so love winter. Hmmm--maybe I should move to Ottawa!

  3. Very nice and looks like a blast! I love seeing all those people ice skating!

  4. Well spent tax dollars if you ask me. That's looks really well done: sad to think that they'll be melted away by the heat. The good news: same time same place next year they'll be more. (The taxes never end!!)

  5. What amazing ice sculptures! That is quite the festival. :c)

  6. Anonymous7:46 am GMT-5

    Looks like the Feb thaw didn't do much damage to Winterlube. There are very talented people behind the creation of those amazing ice sculptures. Where do they come up with the ideas?
    Outside from morning to night, you might have needed two pairs of long underwear.
    Love the skaters on the canal. Reminds me of stories my Dad would tell of himself skating on the canals in Holland.

  7. Fourth winter here, and I still haven't made it to the lude.

  8. That's pretty much how we felt when we lived in Milwaukee. Just get out and enjoy it.

    I loved the snow sculptures. We had similar contests in Milwaukee. Amazing detail.

  9. Never been to Ottawa in winter, but I can see the advantage of "If you can't beat it join it" attitude. Didn't realize it was the second coldest capital. Was that an ice head of Sir John Eh??!! Looks like it was lots of fun. And Jim Cuddy, too - big BR fan here!

  10. We were in Ottawa but only for a day in our train trip across Canada. It would be great to be able to go to this festival. I'm glad things froze up again for all the important stuff!! The snow/ice sculptures are great.

  11. Looks like a fun festival Ruth. I enjoyed the slide show.

  12. Guess what? Our PBS news (Newshour with Jim Lehrer) did a spot about Obama's visit there tomorrow. They showed a lot of pictures of Winterlude! I felt quite at home, since their shots are very much like yours.

  13. Looks like fun. My son lives in Ottawa - I must ask him if he took his family to winterlude.
    Great pics!

  14. The ice/snow sculptures are magnificent! And it's fun to see the Huskies in their traces, too.
    Good for you, getting out in spite of the cold!

  15. Jan- Clear cold with sun is not nearly as chilling as the damp cold of the Great Lakes regions. Ottawa is worth another visit.

    KGMom- If you love winter you do need to move to where they have snow! Ottawa has lots of winter recreational opportunities.

    Monarch- It was something to see thousands of people on the ice.

    Robert- The snow sculptures from the previous weekend had melted and these were freshly done. There are tens of thousands of digital images of them around.

    Jayne- The detail in the sculptures was amazing.

    Cheryl D- Yes, this is reminiscent of Holland's canals. The snow had melted a lot and some of the parks had trucked in snow for the weekend.

    AC- When your wee grandchildren are a little bigger you will have to take them. The Jacques Cartier park in Gatineau was wonderful for children. I needed to borrow a child in a stroller. It is the only way I can stay on my feet in skates.

    NCMW- Yes, Obama is making his big visit to Ottawa tomorrow and the city centre will be virtually shut down. They were starting to put up barricades when we were there. I think he should bring his daughters for a skate and take them to the ice park.

    Deborah- Yes Sir John was bigger than life and Jim Cuddy was solo, but well appreciated.

    CS- I would like to go to Ottawa for the tulip festival too and even for Canada Day. We did not get to many of the galleries and museums on this trip.

    Ruthie and Wendy- Lots of fun for sure. I couldn't believe those buskers on stilts could walk about in the ice and snow.

    Janie- I enjoyed the dog sledding. They were on a short track and people could pay for a ride, but the dogs obviously loved their job.

  16. Ruth,

    I've always wanted to visit Ottawa in winter. Brandon was supposed to take a trip with his class last year, but because of his mother's surgery, he wasn't able to go. At present he is in Quebec City, enjoying all the sights and sounds. He was at the snow park yesterday. They were snow tubing. This is the first time he's been away without a family member and I'm sure he's having lots of fun.

    Enjoyed the photos.

  17. Anonymous8:12 pm GMT-5

    I agree..you have to bundle up and enjoy as you and your family did...


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