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World’s Largest Skating Rink Closed Due to Warm Temperatures

Each year, more than a million annual visitors come to the Rideau Canal Skateway in Ottawa, Canada, to trace figure-eights and pirouettes on the rink’s glassy, 4.8-mile surface. But this year, temperatures may be too warm to open the rink at all. 

The Rideau Canal Skateway, which is a section of canal that connects Ottawa to the St. Lawrence River, holds the Guiness World Record for the largest naturally frozen ice rink on the planet. It’s a huge tourist attraction as well as a treasured recreation spot for Ottawa locals.  

Each winter, Skateway officials measure the ice regularly to ensure it’s thick enough to safely ice skate. The ice usually reaches that threshold — about 12 inches — by the end of January. But now, as February nears its end, the ice remains woefully thin. That could mean the rink goes an entire season without seeing a single day of ice skating, a first in its more than 50 years of existence.

Image by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The problem has been an unusually warm winter. While the Skateway’s opening day has been trending later over the past few decades due to global warming, this winter has been particularly mild for Ottawa. Usually, this part of Canada experiences extremely low temperatures, but this season has seen relatively few days below 30°F. That’s just not cold enough to support thick ice, or the 22,000 skaters that usually flock to the rink each day. 

There is a cold snap coming, but officials aren’t sure if it will be enough to substantially solidify the canal’s surface. In the meantime, though, the walking path alongside the canal remains open, and locals are keeping their fingers crossed for colder weather ahead. 

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