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Guide to Fall Rollerskiing in Gatineau Park
By:  Craig Storey   (2004/09/24)


XCOttawa.ca has received a number of queries regarding roller skiing in Gatineau Park this fall. This note is intended to be a guide to roller skiing in the Park during the fall months. It explains the history of roller skiing in the Park (leaving out the grisly details like square inches of skin left on pavement at the Mica Intersection), and attempts to clarify the seemingly complicated set of rules governing the activity. It also contains a handy-dandy map that you can review! Bear in mind, however, that the opinions and advice contained below do not constitute the official position of either the National Capital Commission or the Government of Quebec, and that XC Ottawa is not responsible for any legal damages or liabilities as a result of following the advice below!

Gatineau Park has a beautiful network of roads that, due to limited traffic and winter closure, are in great roller-skiing condition. The Gatineau, Fortune and Champlain Parkway loop, generally referred to as "The Loop", is roughly 22km long. The stretch from the Gatineau-Champlain "T" stretches another 8km. (Confused about location? Consult the map below.) This much good pavement, combined with the rolling terrain of the Gatineau hills, makes for some of the best roller skiing in the country!

The bad news, however, is that roller skiing in Quebec on roads open to traffic is illegal according to the Quebec Highway Act. If you are caught roller skiing on the roads in the park, or anywhere else, you face fines and other discouraging penalties such as license demerit points. On the bright side, roller skiing on roads that are closed to traffic is legal (and very sexy, too). The Gatineau Park is closed to traffic at specific times and in specific locations, and we’ve laid these out below for you.

During the summer months, the Gatineau Park teams up with Alcatel Networks to host "Bike Sundays", during which the parkways are closed to traffic from 6AM until 11AM. The stretch from P8-P9 (known as the Doldrums to those who spend too much time there) is left closed until 1PM, so that kids on bikes, hard core roller bladers and roller skiers can go back and forth until their hearts are content. The closure is intended mainly for cyclists, but roller skiing is also encouraged. Please be careful, however, to avoid getting in the way of the two-wheelers- they aren’t able to turn very well when descending hills at fast speeds. If you are doing a U-turn on rollerskis, or making any erratic movements, please shoulder check. These Sunday closings last until Labour Day.

In addition to the Sunday Bike Days, the gates at P8 to P9 close to traffic at 6:00 pm until dusk every Tuesday & Thursday from May 25 to Oct 28. In September the gates close earlier to accommodate the loss of daylight. Linda and Reg Landry of Chelsea Nordic look after this, and for that the ski community is very, extremely, can-never-thank-them enough grateful. If you want to help with gate closures and/or you noticed that the gates need to be re-opened, please call Linda Landry at 827-7678 or 82sport!

Can't get out after work during the fall? Take heart: this is where the NCD ski Clubs - Nakkertok, Skinouk, Chelsea, Orleans and XC Ottawa- come to the rescue of the weekend warriors and the parents of junior skiers! At this point we should mention our indebtedness and eternal thanks to Cross Country Canada (CCC), the cross-country skiing governing body in Canada, and its local National Capital Division (NCD), for negotiating closures with the National Capital Commission. The parties came to an agreement that recognizes the importance of roller skiing in the Gatineau Park. The NCC-NCD agreement allows the local clubs to close sections of the parkway so that skiers can legally roller ski every Saturday and Sunday morning from Labour Day until the first snow fall (after the first snowfall, the parkways close for the winter). The clubs close 2 stretches of parkway every weekend morning from 6AM until 10AM. The stretches are from P8-P9 and from P8 up the Gatineau Parkway to the Gatineau-Chaplain Parkway "T". This portion of the Park has some very varied terrain, with hills steep enough to challenge even the most determined one-skater, and flats flat enough to please the youngest roller-munchkin.

During this Fall period, the Gatineau Park is quite busy with the Fall Rhapsody season. The colourful fall foliage attracts tourist in droves, and we mean droves, with serious traffic jams on nice weekend afternoons. (Background reading: Traffic Jam in the Park) All of these tourists, and their wallets, are important to the NCC, Gatineau Park and Chelsea area. They are the reason you can ski for super-cheap, and buy super-yummy-delicious brownies from the Bakery in the Park. However, they are also the reason that the NCC prefers roller-skiers not to ski during open-traffic times.

For all of our sakes, please enjoy roller-skiing only when the parkways are closed (which brings to mind the following question: does anyone really enjoy rollerskiing on a chilly October morning when it’s pouring rain, 2 degrees outside, and fallen leaves ice up the roads?) Seriously, though, it’s for all of our benefits to respect the times outlined above. The NCC-NCD agreement exists only through the grace of the NCC and the hard work of the NCD, a group of volunteers who are trying to make ski training work for all of us. The NCC can cancel the agreement at any time, and bandit roller-skiers will contribute to their willingness to do so.

And, of course, when you do run into those tourists, in the parking lots or on the running trails, smile nice and be happy-friendly, and help them if they’re lost- the big bad Park is a scary place to those who don’t know it.

Keep it real, keep it rolling, and keep it righteous, ya’ll!

This has been a public-service message from your local community service club,
XC Ottawa.

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