This season Gatineau Park has been blanketed in snow earlier than it has been in several years. While in late December downtown Ottawa only had a light covering of snow, the park was in excellent shape.
Skiing in the park began this year on October 26th. An early snowfall hit the park while it was still raining in the city. This snow was mostly gone in a few days, but while the snow was still present, the skiing was surprisingly good on the higher elevation and north facing parts of the parkways. The parkways and especially the smooth grass on their sides allow for skiing with surprisingly small amounts of snow.
That snow is long since gone but since that time the park has received much more snow. While the city of Ottawa received mixed rain and snow during December, Gatineau Park received mostly snow.
Early season skiing is usually best on the Fortune and Champlain parkways. This area tends to be colder and receive more snow than the southern and lower portions of the park. In addition, the parkways do not need much snow cover for skiing. Parking lot P10 is generally the best starting point during the early season.
Currently (January 9, 2003), the park has excellent conditions. At the end of last week the park had a hard icy base of snow. This base has been covered up by the copious snowfalls of the past week. All of the parkways are fresh packed powder. Ridge Road is also in excellent shape all the way to the fire tower. Trail #5 (the bike path near Mont Blue) is another trail that is in excellent condition (the notorious stream crossing on the back-side of Pink is still a bit of a dip but is entirely snow covered). Many of the secondary trails such as #24, #15, #7, Burma road and the Camp Fortune trails have been groomed. Most of the rocks on these trails have been covered up. However there still isn't enough snow to totally fill in the dips and craters on these uneven trails. They are great fun to ski now but requrie more caution now than later in the year.
This year the leaves remained stubbornly on the trees well into December. However, most of them have fallen now and the recent snowfalls have finally covered them up.
During the upcoming weekend (January 11-12) the Ontario Cup races 3 and 4 will be held in Gatineau Park. The races have been moved from their planned location to the parkway near P5 (Gatineau parkway and Kingsmere road overpass). While the new parkway course does not have the technical demands that a usual racing course would, the new course is much easier for recreational skiers to watch. The classical technique races start at 10:30am on Saturday while the skating technique races start at 9:30am on Sunday; race spectators are encouraged. Be ready for parking lot P5 to be full and the parkway to be busy with skiers. The race course is a short ski to the south from parking lot P8.
For information on the ski conditions in the park, one can call the park's information line at 827.2020. One can also see the current weather in the Old Chelsea area on the XC Ottawa webcam at www.xcottawa.ca.