4 urban cross-country ski trails to try this winter

Don't want to head into the wilds of Gatineau Park to get your cross-country skiing fix? Good news: you don't have to.

No need to head to Gatineau Park

Sure, gliding through the wilderness is a nice way to spend the day. But if you want to stay closer to your transit stations and your artisanal doughnut shops, we've prepared a list of four urban ski trails to check out. (Nahila Bendali Amor/Radio-Canada)

Don't want to head into the wilds of Gatineau Park to get your cross-country skiing fix? 

Well, good news: there are plenty of options right here in Ottawa for fans of the sport. 

Britannia Winter Trail

The new kid on the piste, the six-kilometre Britannia Winter Trail will be making its debut this season with a pilot project set to launch in February.

The multi-purpose trail will run eastward from the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre in Britannia Park, skirting Mud Lake and the Britannia Conservation Area to the south.

"We have this beautiful landscape here along the river," said Judy Dudley, president of the not-for-profit Britannia Winter Trail Association. "It's not as well used in the winter as it should be."

The trail will be groomed, but salt won't be used in order to protect the conservation area. Dogs are welcome, as are snowshoers and fat bikes.

The association hopes to one day connect the new trail with the nearby SJAM Winter Trail.

Ski Heritage East

Skiers in east Ottawa have easy access to trails along the Ottawa River, thanks to Ski Heritage East.

The roughly eight-kilometre network was launched in January 2018, running from Green's Creek in the west to Trim Road in the east.

The trails have been open since December, and are groomed regularly.

This map shows the length of the Ski Heritage East trail, which runs from Green's Creek all the way to Trim Road. (Ski Heritage East)

SJAM Winter Trail

For the past three years, the SJAM Winter Trail has offered skiers a convenient outdoor setting that's close to transit lines and not far from the downtown.

The 16-kilometre trail runs along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, from the Canadian War Museum to Westboro Beach, with loops at the Selby Plains and at Remic Rapids.

Under ideal conditions, there are two tracks: one for cross-country and skate skiers, and another for snowshoers, winter cyclists and hikers. 

Groomers were hard at work Thursday, getting the trail into peak shape.

Rideau Winter Trail

This will be the first full season of skiing on the Rideau Winter Trail, after a successful pilot project last year.

The trail's official launch is Saturday, meaning folks will soon be able to ski, snowshoe or bike along a meandering loop of more than a kilometre through the green space from the Adàwe Crossing to Highway 417.

The plan is to groom the trail once a week, so it's always ready for the weekend, said Nicki Bridgland, one of the trail's organizers.

"The real purpose is to create urban recreation in the wintertime — to get outside, to enjoy winter, to have a chance to play rather than stay inside," Bridgland said.

Nicki Bridgland says the Rideau Winter Trail will be ready to launch Saturday, with ski rentals available for people who don't have their own pair. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC)

With files from Julia Sisler