Rideau Winter Trail, behind the scenes

(photo) Rideau Winter Trail board president Peter Nor and fellow volunteer trail groomer Stuart Inglis

Photo: Peter Nor

By Martha Jeacle


With the winter season comes the return of the Rideau Winter Trail (RWT), a free urban trail groomed for cross-country skiing (both skate and classic), walking, snowshoeing and fat biking. Located in the heart of our city and easily accessible for residents of the Glebe, it runs from Donald Street along the Rideau River (by the Rideau Sports Centre) to Bank Street in Old Ottawa South.

This is the fourth season of our winter trail, and while it is definitely becoming a fixture in our community, there may be a few things that people do not yet know.


Run by volunteers

Were you aware that the Rideau Winter Trail is run entirely by local volunteers? There are no paid staff and we rely on the generous donation of time to bring the trail to life each season. The City of Ottawa and National Capital Commission allow the RWT to use their land and are very supportive of the initiative, but it is volunteers who plan the trail, groom it, raise the funds to make it happen, market and promote it. We are grateful for the support of the City and the NCC, but we could not do this without our wonderful volunteers. We are always looking for people to join in the fun, so if you’d like to get involved, please drop us a line at rideauwintertrail@gmail.com. Wondering what you might be able to do to help? There are lots of options, including shovelling snow, equipment maintenance, grooming the trail, updating the website, fundraising and sponsorship, marketing, community relations and governance (the RWT is an incorporated not for profit). Whatever your skill set, we may be able to find a use for it!


It takes time

Grooming the trail from Donald Street to Bank Street can take six hours or more, and there are usually at least two volunteers out preparing the trail. If you are wondering when the trail should be groomed, there is actually some science behind this. Our groomers look at various elements including accumulation of snow, temperature and wind, then pick the best time to hit the trail to ensure great conditions. Often the best time is very late at night or early in the morning so the tracks have time to set before being heavily used. While many of us are sound asleep, our team is out making the magic happen. That’s hours outside in very cold temperatures and at unsociable hours, so if you see our team doing some work (or cleanup in more sociable hours!), please be sure to give them a big thank you.


Off season

When the snow melts in the spring, the equipment gets put away, but that doesn’t mean that the work stops. There is lots to be done, although we do take a break in the summer to recharge our batteries and enjoy the warm weather. Fundraising and grant writing take place year-round – we are always looking at ways to get funding for new equipment and to maintain current equipment, and there are ongoing expenses such as gas to power the machines, insurance, storage containers and more.

In the fall, trail preparation begins, as volunteers get together to spread wood chips (a smoother trail requires less snow), trim brush, update trail layouts and mark grooming hazards that are hard to see in deep snow. It takes lots of work to have everything in place so that when the snow does fall, the trail is in the best possible shape to be groomed.

We hope to see you out on the trail this season – it is a great way to enjoy winter! If you’d like more information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at rideauwintertrail@gmail.com. If you’d like to support the trail financially, your contribution to our GoFundMe would be gratefully received.

(map) Rideau Winter Trail runs along the Rideau River from Bank to Donald streets.



Martha Jeacle is a volunteer with the Rideau Winter Trail.



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