Published on March 24, 2021
With the arrival of spring comes the end of a very memorable season on the National Capital Commission’s #WinterCapital assets. In response to the ongoing pandemic, the NCC strove to provide an unprecedented winter offering with more outdoor space across the region to better enable physical distancing, exercise and mental well-being. As a result, more people than ever before were able to get outdoors and enjoy our assets across the Capital.
In addition to creating more outdoor space, the NCC encouraged people to disperse on the network by launching an interactive map to discover new and less-popular trails, and by publishing weekly usage numbers to promote informed decision-making and off-peak usage.
As the NCC navigated this unprecedented winter season, we thank everyone for their ability to remain flexible as we adjusted our operations in Ontario and Quebec to reflect evolving public health advice. With your collaboration, we are pleased to have provided continued public access to greenspace at a time when it was needed most.
While we are hard at work preparing for an expanded summer offering, here’s an overview of our winter season, as well as some advice for exploring the Capital this spring.
2020–2021 Season Highlights
- Increased funding to the Urban Winter Trails Alliance created 50 percent more winter trail space, which showed record-breaking use of community-managed trails. For example, SJAM Winter Trail welcomed three times as many visitors as last year, with an average of 1,094 daily visits.
- In partnership with Virtual Run Canada and Sportstats, our #WinterCapital virtual challenges saw 785 participants set and meet their exercise goals on NCC assets.
- The 51st skating season lasted continuously for 26 days with excellent conditions, creating additional space for exercise and well-being in the densely populated urban core. It welcomed more than half a million visits this season, an average of 19,550 visits per day.
In light of the forecast of warm weather and rainfall, Gatineau Park’s winter season is drawing to a close. The last official day of grooming operations was undertaken overnight on Tuesday, March 23, 2021. Skiers may continue to access the network, but conditions are highly variable, and routes are no longer officially recommended. Highlights of the season:
- A total of 16,809 passes were sold (14,475 ski passes, and 2,334 snowshoe and snow bike passes), an increase of 39 percent over last year.
- More than 1,695 winter accommodation nights were booked, an increase of 38 percent over last year.
- Winter trails were open for a total of 81 days, compared to 91 days last year. Over the past 15 years, the average length of the season was 110 days.
Shortened season: Recognizing that some season passholders did not realize the value of their passes due to public health guidelines discouraging interprovincial and interregional travel for various periods during the winter season, the NCC will shortly communicate our reimbursement policy.
Parkways: Once the snow cover melts, maintenance teams will begin the cleanup to prepare the parkways for summer use. Until April 5, 2021, the public is invited to complete an online survey that will help determine our offering. Information will be made available in the coming weeks.
Trails: The summer hiking and walking trails will open on April 15, 2021, at which time leashed dogs will be allowed back onto the designated trails. Gatineau Park’s mountain biking season opens May 15, 2021. Please remain off the trails during the spring thaw period, and instead opt for the recommended trails listed on our website.
Spring Cleanup / Thanks to our Partners
Greenbelt: During the thaw period, avoid non-recommended trails as they can become muddy and flooded.
Pathways: As soon as most of the snow is melted, our maintenance teams will begin cleaning the pathways and removing debris. All cleanup on the Capital Pathway is scheduled to be completed by May.
Thanks to our partners: The success of this unique season is due in no small part to the work and involvement of many, including:
- Gatineau Park partners, including Services récréatifs Demsis and the volunteer ski patrol;
- Winter Trails sponsors, partners and volunteers, including the City of Ottawa, Ville de Gatineau and the Urban Winter Trail Alliance (SJAM Winter Trail, Ottawa West Winter Trail, Britannia Winter Trail Association, Rideau Winter Trail, Ski Heritage East, Orleans Ski Club).