Building a city ski and snowshoe culture

Last night, two neighbours and I, met at the O-train pathway and cut a cross country ski trail to the Ottawa River and east to the Mill Street Brewery.

What could be more Canadian than enjoying a great apres-ski beer only a few kilometres from home?  And more importantly… WHY ISN’T THIS A THING, OTTAWA?  In what other Canadian city could you ski as a real form of transportation?  To a pub! In theory, using the existing pathway system,  we could ski to the Market, to Westboro or heck, even the Glebe.

What would it take to make the pathway system a year-round network with skiing and snowshoeing in the winter?  Turning the pathways into a winter activity network turns otherwise ordinary (and unused in the winter months) walking and cycling paths into a really unique experience when the snow falls.  And best of all, the infrastructure is already THERE.

All it requires is some hardy Amonte-ian (or likeminded rural Ottawan) with a snowmobile to flatten a track.  It wouldn’t take much to make a winter recreational network.   People might start to realize that you don’t actually need to drive to Mooney’s Bay or Gatineau Park to have an Ottawa winter adventure.  You can be Joe Ski or Jill Snoeshow and enjoy your winter city starting from your front door.

And I bet tourists would love it.

Get on it already, hipsters

City cross country skiing has all the elements of popular hipster culture: fixies (1 speed skis with no brakes), flannel (immense opportunity for flannel wearing – although, in a purposeful and less ironic fashion), rustic atmosphere (literally, it’s off the beaten path) and the two great pathway destinations involve craft beer and artinsal bread.


Ski conditions post weekend snowpocalypse

Ski conditions yesterday were a bit tough.  With the accumulation of snow from our weekend storms, breaking the track was a hard slog.  We put the “avid skiier” in the lead for the leg-busting task of making tracks.

While there is a sense of pride from breaking fresh tracks and being part of the artisinal Hintonburg Cross County Street Ski scene, I wouldn’t mind seeing more people embracing winter culture within the city limits.

And guess what?  Edmonton is already on top of this trend.  Look at Edmonton’s concept for the “Freezeway” – it will blow.your.mind.

If you can’t beat winter, stop throwing salt at it and embrace it.

Pros of rogue cross county city skiing :

  • It’s FREE! (A ski pass in Gatineau park is $11 per person)
  • You don’t need to drive to Gatineau Park (great for car-free city dwellers or car owners who are tired of shovelling their car out of the driveway)
  • You can make a bakery or a pub your apres-ski or mid-ski destination
  • Free parking!  Wedge skis and poles into a snowbank by the door
  • DIY track making = “rustic” backcountry winter experience
  • You get to feel like an arctic explorer… within city limits
  • Hot pretzels at the Mill Street Brewery!  (Evening menu only.)


  • DIY track making (hard work in deep snow)
  • Sometimes walkers will walk over the ski tracks
  • Twinges of resentment.  Why can’t the NCC run their ski track making machine on the Ottawa side once in a while?

Did I mention the pretzels?  Mmmmm…. hot pretzels.

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Comments: 9

  1. rww says:

    Of course that would defeat my dream of having them cleared for biking but since that’s never going to happen this is a pretty good idea.

    I remember at one time there used to be fairly regular ski tracks along the Ottawa River pathway.

    • Lana says:

      See, the nice thing about the river pathway is that there’s room to do both! Plow for biking… ski trails on the side for activities not dependant on asphalt. And you’re right – usually there’s ski tracks along the river.

      • john O'Brien says:

        It’d be far better to just groom a centre track for walking and biking and drag tracks on the side for skiing. Plowed trails just get iced up in freeze thaw melts. Biking on grooms is more fun anyways.

  2. The City of Ottawa has an Active Living Club, that has been in operation since mid-90s, offering daytime, week day outings for the 50+ crowd, including x-country skiing and snowshoeing, in winter; and hiking and cycling in summer

  3. Lynne says:

    It would be so wonderful to have the Rideau River pathway plowed and groomed for walking/cycling/skiing in winter. Now if we could figure out how to safely transport my skis on my bike, we would be in heaven!

  4. Susan Young says:

    This is such a great idea, make the usual biking commute pathways skiing commute pathways! And not just along the Ottawa River, but also one side of the Canal and one side of the Rideau River. Also one sidewalk side of city throughfare streets, like Somerset, could be dedicated to skiing and snowshoeing in to work, while the other side is for walkers. Surely this is done elsewhere???

  5. Joe says:

    Great idea! I love flannel, skis, and beer and my fixie is rendered useless by the snow. This. Would. Be. Awesome.

  6. K. Forster says:

    Wow – this is even better than Art-is-in Bakery!

    sounds like a great night – always great to have a warm destination (with food) when you are skiing! : )

  7. Christie says:

    Ha I loved this post, this should be a thing! I did a #pubskate this year, we will have to bring in a #pubski as well. And invite all of our hipster friends.