Along the Rideau Canal National Historic Site in Canada – a UNESCO World Heritage Site no less – you can glide along the world’s largest skateway. We’re talking a whole 7.8km of skating along the historic Rideau Canal in Ontario, which winds through the heart of Ottawa towards Dows Lake. It’s the world’s largest skating rink and holds the official Guinness record for the world’s largest naturally frozen ice rink (*adds to bucket list*) .
The Rideau Canal Skateway was first opened during the 1970–1971 season, so is set to celebrate 50 years this January. Its humble beginnings saw a team of NCC employees (the commission for Canada’s capital, Ottowa) armed with brooms and shovels clear a small section of ice between the Mackenzie King and Laurier bridges.
If, like me, you were warned off frozen ponds as a child – with the shiny ice looking so inviting for a skate – you might want to know how these guys manage to make skating on a canal safe. According to the maintenance team, once the water reaches a uniform temperature of 2°C from surface to bottom it begins to crystallize and expand. Because ice crystals are less dense than water, they rise to the surface, where they eventually form a frozen cap.
Once a layer of ice has formed, the drilling team uses an ice auger to draw out core samples of the ice. They then use the amazingly named “ice carrot” to measure thickness and check ice quality. When daily testing shows a sufficient thickness (30 cm) of good quality ice for safe skating, the entrances to the Skateway open.
To celebrate, throughout January and February over five Saturday nights, you’ll be able to enjoy a dance party on the ice with a roving DJ playing tunes from the five decades. But even if you’re not able to visit right now due to quarantine or travel restrictions, I’m sure there’s another 50 years ahead of the Skateway to come.
For more information, visit the Rideau Canal Skateway website.