Surviving the first winter

Ottawa, the seventh coldest capital city in the world, did credit to last winter. Snow from November to April, some meters high, months of sub-zero temperatures. My first winter here was quite impressive and still does not seem to be fully over yet, in the middle of May. I’ve never experienced a winter like that before, and some things here felt quite bizarre. Now, at the beginning of spring, I’d like to share an excerpt of my first winter season impressions.

Skating the Canal

One of Ottawa’s highlights, especially in winter, definitely is the Rideau Canal. It starts freezing in December and serves as the largest ice rink in the world for several months – on a length of almost 8 kilometres you can enjoy the pleasant side of winter, especially during the early morning hours. Completely free of charge! The canal is accessible 24 hours a day, and the ice is regularly renewed. It feels very unreal to drive thirty or forty minutes in one direction on a natural ice rink for kilometres, with thousands of other skaters, passing resting places, where you can warm up by the fire or enjoy culinary delights.

Video: Having fun skating all along Rideau Canal – an eight kilometre long skating rink in the middle of Ottawa

Snow removal

It snows a lot in Ottawa’s winter. Sometimes 40cm overnight. And it does not thaw before mid of April. That means, at some point the snow is meters high, at the roadsides sometimes up to four meters, and the city starts to remove the masses regularly. An extremely bizarre sight, when huge snow blowers everywhere in the city transport the white “disaster powder” onto countless trucks and the latter onto snow dumps outside the city. It gets particularly bizarre when you are woken up at 2am by noise and light because the snow removal team is clearing the streets in front of your window.

Video: Once the snow gets too much, heavy duty machinery is starting to remove it. In the middle of the night.

Winterlude festival

Winter is celebrated here in the Canadian capital. The two-week lasting Winterlude Festival is held annually in February. Especially bizarre here: Outdoor DJs and dancing at -20 degrees, ice sculpture competitions, as well as huge snow artworks. Also, a dragon boat race took place – on the frozen Dow’s Lake!

Video: Dragon boat racing on a frozen lake; doesn’t get more bizarre than that.

Everything white, everything frozen

The sheer masses of snow and ice are indeed impressive. After a few weeks, cars that had not been removed in time were completely snowed in; the heap of snow next to our driveway had piled up to several meters by the end of February, icicles larger than Christina formed on houses, people with cross-country skis can be seen in the middle of town, colleagues come to work on skates, the bicycle shops turn into winter sports suppliers, and when it heats up to just a few degrees below zero, you think spring is coming.

Video: All the snow fun you can imagine….

It’s all over in May

As interesting as the long winter season in southern Ontario may be, it is above all one thing: long. The first snow in November and then having temperatures below zero almost continuously over five months is more than just a matter of getting used to. There’s nothing wrong with a crisp winter in itself – but does it have to last almost half a year? I am very excited about the coming winter season. But even more so for the short season in between!

For more winter impressions, have a look at the gallery: Ottawa in Winter.

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