Skate the Lake cancelled on Big Rideau Lake as would-be skaters eye the canal — and the forecast

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Organizers have cancelled Skate the Lake 2023 in Portland, Ont. southwest of Ottawa saying that ice conditions on Big Rideau Lake are not good enough for the weekend of races.

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It’s the latest local winter event to melt under unseasonably mild temperatures despite the recent cold snap with more balmy-for-February days forecast for this week.

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“Obviously we are all very disappointed to have to cancel Skate the Lake 2023, but it is the right call,” co-founder and past president Marco Smits said in a media release.

After organizers postponed from the end of January to mid-February, “we were hoping for a sustained period of cold temperatures and that just didn’t happen.”

It was to be the 18th edition of the event previously known as the International Big Rideau Lake Speed Skating Marathon and organized by the not-for-profit Portland Outdoors.

“I do feel that the future is bright for Skate the Lake,” Smits said in the release. “We had so many dedicated volunteers working on this behind the scenes this year, we even had some new sponsors and new food vendors lined up.

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“So many people were looking forward to this and we are already thinking ahead to 2024.”

From November to January, it was the third mildest winter in Ottawa in records going back to 1872, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada. Only the winters of 1931 and 2001 were milder.

In Ottawa, the BeaverTails Ice Dragon Boat Festival had to cancel races slated for Feb. 3-4 on Dow’s Lake.

On Thursday, the National Capital Commission tweeted that it had officially passed its record for the latest opening date of the Rideau Canal Skateway, which was Feb. 2 in 2002.

“The extreme cold is helping, but not quite enough to build the ice thickness needed to open the Skateway for the 1st weekend of Winterlude.”

The NCC has said that the skateway can only be open to the public once the surface is at least 30 cm thick with good quality ice, which takes 10 to 14 days of consecutive cold weather.

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It was so cold Friday that outdoor events were cancelled for the first day of the first of three Winterlude weekends.

Monday’s outlook was seasonal  — a high of -6 C and a low of -15 C — but then it’s back to milder conditions, according to the forecast issued Monday by Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Tuesday is expected to reach 0 C with 2 cm of snow and the risk of freezing drizzle late in the afternoon and then it’s forecasted that there will be showers or flurries and -1 C Tuesday night.

Wednesday’s forecast high is 3 C under mixed skies with a low of -8 C.

For Thursday, both the forecast high and low are 1 C with a 60 per cent chance of snow or rain during the day and periods of snow or rain Thursday night.

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