This year's Winterlude was a success thanks to weather that helped keep the Rideau Canal open for skating most days, according to organizers and tourism officials.
The annual Ottawa-Gatineau festival ends Monday, having launched Feb. 3.
- 5 new events at this year's Winterlude festival
- Full Rideau Canal Skateway temporarily closes Saturday night
A spokesperson for the federal government's Department of Canadian Heritage, which runs Winterlude on a budget of just over $2 million, called it a great year where one of its centrepieces, the Rideau Canal Skateway, was able to stay open all but the last two days.
"Unfortunately it warmed up a little bit on Saturday which made us have to close the Rideau Canal Skateway but there are still events at the other official sites at Confederation Park [and] at Jacques Cartier Park," said Natalie Huneault.
Last year the Skateway had its shortest season ever at 18 days, having to close in the middle of Winterlude because of warm, wet weather.
Ottawa Tourism said Monday there were huge crowds taking part each of the festival's three weekends and said the canal being open helped draw last-minute visitors from places such as Toronto and Montreal.
"People who come to Winterlude from far away, typically they make their decisions much earlier. They book without knowing what they weather is going to be," said Jantine Van Kregten, communications director for Ottawa Tourism.
"But when the weather cooperates it allows people from close markets like Montreal to say 'You know what, I've always wanted to skate on the Canal, it's open, I'm going.'"
The Department of Canadian Heritage said it thinks the attendance this year surpassed the estimated 600,000 people it attracts annually — with about 180,000 of those coming from outside of the area.