Most of Rideau Canal Skateway now open

There's a silver lining to all the cold weather Ottawa has been going through these past couple weeks: the Rideau Canal Skateway is finally open.

5-km section of skateway between Bronson rest area and Pretoria Bridge opened 8 a.m. Friday

One of the first skaters of the season takes to the Rideau Canal Jan. 5, 2018. (Christian Milette/Radio-Canada)

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  • The NCC plans to open the stretch from Pretoria Bridge to Rideau Street on Jan. 7 at 8 a.m.

There's a silver lining to all this cold weather Ottawa has been going through these past couple of weeks: the Rideau Canal Skateway is finally open.

The @NCC_Skateway Twitter account, which for days had been barraged with questions from residents about a possible opening date, broke the news Thursday afternoon. 

The National Capital Commission said the canal is open from the Bronson rest area to Pretoria Bridge, including Dow's Lake. 

It will take some guts, though, to lace up in the opening days, with an extreme cold warning and a frostbite warning in effect for Ottawa.

Residents are urged to cover up and wear multiple layers to prevent frostbite. 

A skater warms up next to a fire at a Rideau Canal rest area Jan. 5, 2018. The wind chill made it feel near -40 on the opening day of the 2018 skating season. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

Bruce Devine, the skateway's senior manager, said in an interview Friday morning that the cold meant workers had to take breaks to warm up inside and battle equipment malfunctions.

The canal water was still too warm at 3 C or 4 C when they tried to get on the ice in the days before Christmas.

Starting Dec. 26 they were able to get to work and open up the first portion after a pretty standard 10 nights of freezing temperatures.

"We'd like to think [we can open the rest] soon," he said.

"We've already watered the other sections so it should happen within the [next] few days. It's weather dependent … if the breeze puts a bunch of snow on the ice, we can't water it."

Devine added the ice on the canal's northern and southern ends is thick enough now, but too bumpy and cracked for safe skating.

View Rideau Canal facts and figures here.

With files from Andrew Foote, Gilles Taillon