Thursday, October 25, 2001 - Perspective
XC Ottawa Update: Skiing in Ottawa

- By: Tom McCarthy

So, weve started up this team that most of you have probably heard something about by now. Its called XC Ottawa, which tells you that were skiers, and that were from Ottawa. Ottawa? Skiing? For some people, especially those out West where the mountaintops stay white year-round, Ottawa probably seems like the worst place to ski. Its southern, its eastern, its flat, its low altitude... its all wrong.

Having lived and skied here for all of my life, and knowing most of the ski trails better than I know the hair on my toes, I am sometimes inclined to agree, especially these days when it gets dark so early and it rains all the time, and the ground still isnt frozen and everybody else is skiing in Alaska!! Really though, Ottawa has got to be one of the top few places to train and ski anywhere in Canada. Its a gorgeous town surrounded by wilderness, minutes away from hundreds of kilometres of trails and usually blessed with pretty good snow.

The jewel of Ottawas cross-country skiing facilities has to be the Gatineau Park. They advertise over 160 kilometres of groomed trails (map) every year, and theyre not messing around. There is every kind of trail you could think of; hilly and fast and fun, wide and flat and boring, classic singletrack with open streams and ski-breaking dips... its all there. The company which has the trail maintenance contract usually does an admirable job of grooming anytime there is new snow or condition changes- its not unusual to see two or three groomers at work while out skiing. There are several kilometres of wicked fun race trails at Camp Fortune, which us racers have to work on once in a while to keep open, that connect right to the main trail system. You can ski for sixty kilometres or more without backtracking even once.

Ok, fine, you say, but what about snow? Well, we do have bad years sometimes. Last year was a great year with amazing early and late skiing, but the year before we had hardly skiied at Christmas. However, Ottawa is for some reason one of the most humid towns in the country, which usually means we get pretty reliable snow. It also makes it a little uncomfortable in the summer - but skiers live for the winter, not the summer.

As for the summer, spring, and fall, we have possibly the best dryland training facilities in Canada. Those same 160k of winter trails become awesome singletrack running trails, with a couple of good tough interval uphills. As well, there is a 20k loop of the most delectably smooth, hilly paved roadway in the universe. Its closed to cars a couple of mornings a week, but usually used early most mornings by only a few rollerskiers.

All of the above Gatineau Park facilities are maintained at exorbitant cost to the taxpayer by the NCC - I even saw a specially designed ride-around leafblower out on the Parkways this morning, blowing the leaves off the roads so theyd be smooth and grippy for drivers. (And rollerskiers!)

So the next time youre in Ottawa, give XC Ottawa a shout, and well show you our playground. I promise you wont be disappointed.

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