.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

Tale of the Tape: Ottawa vs. Vancouver
By:  Tom McCarthy   (2007/10/12)


Itís an epic cage match, the battle of the beasts, itsÖ Ottawa vs. Vancouver!! No, not the Ottawa Senators vs. Vancouver Canucks, but the two cities themselves squaring off as ski training locations.

I am only really qualified to compare these two, having spent full seasons only in these two cities. I am sure readers could (and likely will) write in to compare Canmore and Sudbury against these two towns. But for now, Iíll stick with what I know.


baden powell trail

Both cities are pretty great for trail running. Ottawa gets full marks for the Gatineau Park, which has loads of trails of all varieties Ė tight, tricky single track, smooth wide trails, nice views, good terrain. The spine of the Park, Ridge Road, accesses many terrific trails. Vancouver has the North Shore, the spine of which is the Baden-Powell trail, a 48km jewel that goes from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove, and is the course for an annual, and epic, ultra-marathon called the Knee-Knacker. The Shore has trails along its entire stretch, climbing mountains and meandering through massive trees. This is a close one.

Tomís Edge: Vancouver

Edís Second Opinion: Vancouver, by more than a hair (influenced by several epic Squamish trail runs. He says Vancouver has a larger variety near the North Shore, complimented by even more for those willing to drive a bit more).


Road biking

Again, both cities are great locations. Ottawa has the Gatineau loop, the Wakefield route, but also has great, flatter roads to the South. The roads are accessible, and there are quite a few of them. Vancouver has two roads on the North Shore that climb up whole mountains, with switchbacks and the whole bit. They also have some flats, on Marine Drive or Iona beach at the airport, or if you go up the Fraser Valley. And a little spin around Stanley Parkís ring road is a great gem. However, Vancouver is a huge town, and itís harder to get out of town than it is in Ottawa. Traffic is dumber in Vancouver, and much worse.

Tomís Edge: Ottawa

Edís Second Opinion: Ottawa, due to the difficulty of getting out of town.


Urban rollerskiing

Ottawa has the world-famous network of bike paths. They are a great place to rock a relaxed, flatter ski. There are several great distance loops into the Park right from in town, and one loop that goes out to Aylmer. Thereís also the Experimental Farm and the bike path loop out towards Merivale. Vancouver is very bike-friendly, but the bike routes tend to be designated roads rather than separate paths, which, while very well taken care of, are slight downers for rollerskiing. Queen Elizabeth Park is a great urban location, with an almost complete ring road that has a nice hill on it for short intervals. Very little traffic allows for night intervals with little concern. The UBC team trains on Marine Drive, a busy street but one with very few lights and a smooth, lane-wide shoulder.

Tomís Edge: Ottawa

Edís Second Opinion: Ottawa


Rollerski destinations

Lower Seymour

Ottawa again has the famous Gatineau Park loop Ė 20k of the smoothest roads you could ever dream of, with long hills and rolling ups and downs, as well as a grass shoulder thatíll take a fall or an emergency slow-down with no problem. It also gets leaf-blown in the fall!! However, the loop has been seriously constrained in recent years by the official opening times, which limits rollerskiing to weekend mornings and occasional weeknights. Vancouver has the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, which is 10k out (one-way) of just-as-smooth road, in a mountain valley. It has big hills as well, with slightly more varied terrain Ė some bumps, some different pitches, some fun corners. Best of all, itís a recreation pathway Ė closed to traffic year-round!!!

Tomís Edge: Vancouver gets the edge, ONLY because itís open all the time to rollerskiers.

Edís Second Opinion: Tie Ė he canít decide on this one.


Interval hills

For both rollerskiing and ski-striding. Ottawa has Blackís Lake and Fortune Lake Hill, both brilliant interval hills for rollerskiing. For striding, you have your choice of the legendary Penguinís, or the lesser-known Canyons (CBC Road) at Camp Fortune. Vancouver has Fromme Mountain Road (Mountain Highway extension) for ski-striding, which is a gradual-grade limited-access dirt road that would take you to the top of Grouse Mountain if you went high enough. Itís not as steep, but itís endless, and relentless. You can find other steep ones if you look hard. For rollerskiing, a recent epic workout had us classic striding up Cypress Mountain road Ė 10k of stride-worthy elevation gain, requiring a car shuttle top-to-bottom.

Tomís Edge: For sheer epicness, Vancouver.

Edís Second Opinion: Ottawa, because accessibility is easier.


Ski trails

Ottawa has the Gatineau hills, and Nakkertok Ski Club. The Gatineau is pretty famous, 160k of well-groomed trails Ė all of back-country fat-ski fun, smooth, fast rolling skaters, and wide highways for cruising. Ottawa also has an epic and emerging race network, Nakkertok. Vancouver has Cypress Mountain Ė great terrain, wide and well-groomed, but compact, without that much terrain. Caveat though: Callaghan Valley (2010 Olympic network) opens this fall!

Tomís Edge: Ottawa, with little debate.

(Ed hasnít been in Vancouver long enough for a comparison)

Cypress Nordic Trails

Club / Team support

Ottawa has Carleton University, Nakkertok Ski Club, XC Ottawa, and a host of other junior-age teams with programs at varying levels of development. Vancouver has the Hollyburn racing program (I think thatís what itís called).

Tomís Edge: Ottawa.

Edís Second Opinion: Ottawa


Training climate

Ottawa has four VERY distinct seasons Ė a soaking, sopping, hot, sticky summer, a cool fall with gorgeous leaves, a winter that is of varying length but always bitingly cold at some point, and a lingering spring with great spring-skiing. Vancouver has two seasons Ė sunny, dry, idyllic summers, and wet, wet, wet, snowy, snowy winter (snowy only above 3,000 feet approx.). The ski season in Vancouver is longer, but the snow quality is worse.

Tomís Edge: For summer training, Vancouver, for winter training, Ottawa.

Edís Second Opinion: For multi-sport training, Vancouver.

View from Cypress Road

And the winner is . . .

Tomís Edge: Itís gotta be Ottawa.

Edís Second Opinion: Ed says itís probably Ottawa for ski-training, but he loves the trail running here so much he has to call it a tie.

Interesting Reading. . .
Interested in supporting XC Ottawa or advertising on our site? Email: info@xcottawa.ca.
© Copyright 2001-2006, www.xcottawa.ca. All Rights Reserved. Contact us before re-publishing anything seen here.