The Rideau Canal Skateway's 46th season kicked off Saturday a bit later than usual, but with one added benefit — better than normal ice quality.

Officials with the National Capital Commission, which oversees the 7.8-kilometre skateway, said the quality of the ice along the stretch opened to the public today is among the best they've ever seen.

"Considering it's the first [day] it's in really good condition. It's probably in better condition than I've seen it for the opening," said Marc Corriveau, the NCC's director of urban lands.

At around 7:30 a.m. ET, the NCC opened a 3.8-kilometre stretch of the canal to skaters, from Somerset Street to the Bank Street bridge, excluding Patterson's Creek.

Entire canal could be open by next week

While the canal's surface ice had been solid, it wasn't thick enough to allow people to safely use it until today, said Corriveau.

He said the stretches of the skateway north of Somerset Street and south and west of the Bank Street Bridge should hopefully open soon.

"Ice conditions are similar to what you see here. What we're missing is the ice thickness," he said.

"Over the course of the next few days we'll have ice safety [workers] out there. We'll be taking measurements, and hopefully early next week we'll be open." 

The skateway's Jan. 23rd opening is one of the latest in recent years, and almost certainly means Ottawa won't be matching last year's record-breaking skating season.

However, it does mean that — barring an unexpected heat wave — the skateway will be open for the start of Winterlude, which kicks off Jan. 29.