From beginner-friendly and challenging cross-country ski trails, to exciting downhill ski and snowboard centres, the Ottawa-Gatineau region is a skier’s delight once the snow arrives! ! In winter, Canada’s capital offers unparalleled access to snow sports within the city and in the nearby wilderness, including the famous Gatineau Park. No matter your skill level, you’ll enjoy these skiing experiences in Canada’s capital region!
Just a 20-minute drive from Ottawa’s downtown core is one of the largest networks of winter trails in North America! Gatineau Park features over 200 kilometres (124 miles) of cross-country skiing trails that run through pristine Canadian wilderness. Choose from over 50 circuits of flat, hilly or technical terrain and lengths of 7.9 kilometres (5 miles) to 40 kilometres (25 miles). With over 320 metres (1,050 feet) of vertical drop, Gatineau Park is favourite ski touring destination!
Admission to Gatineau Park is free throughout the year, but a Cross-Country Ski Pass is required to use the ski trails in the winter season. Season passes are available or a daily pass can be purchased online, at the park visitor centre, and at select retailers. As ski equipment is not available on site, you must bring your own. (Snowshoeing and fat biking are other popular activities in the park. Snowshoeing equipment rentals are available on site.) Certain hotels in the Ottawa-Gatineau area offer their guests special discounts on Gatineau Park daily passes.
When it’s time to eat, rest or warm up, head into one of the 10 cozy wood cabin shelters along the way. They’re equipped with picnic tables, wood-burning stoves and outhouses for all of your skiing needs. You can also stay over in one of the four-season tents, yurts and wood cabins available for rent. Imagine skiing to your refuge during the day and spending a cozy, restful night in the beautiful, quiet, snow-covered wilderness!
For more information on how to best plan your excursion, including access and parking, visit the National Capital Commission’s cross-country-skiing webpage. And you can always verify Gatineau Park’s trail conditions, including which ones are recommended for classic, back-country and skate skiing, via the National Capital Commission’s website and interactive map.
For guided assistance, consider hiring Tours Expédition Ottawa. Their friendly, bilingual guides can provide a tailored VIP experience that can include transportation, equipment, guided activities and even a gourmet meal.
Mooney’s Bay Ski Centre
For an urban skiing experience within the city, just head 15 minutes south of the downtown core to the Terry Fox Athletic Facility at Mooney’s Bay Park. The Mooney’s Bay Ski Centre offers 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) of groomed, brightly lit trails where you can ski on your own or take classic or skate skiing lessons. Rental equipment is available on site and the ski shop is a great spot to warm up with some hot chocolate. A very affordable and accessible way to enjoy this quintessential Canadian experience!
Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail
The Sir John A. Macdonald Winter Trail (known locally as the SJAM Trail) is another popular urban skiing destination which snakes along the Ottawa River just west of downtown. The 16 kilometre (10 mile) multi-use route stretches from the Canadian War Museum westward alongside vibrant urban communities, including Westboro Village. Cross-country skiers, snowshoers, fat-bikers and walkers share the flat, groomed trails. Need a rest or want to meet like-minded people? Stop at Remic Rapids where a small Nordic Village is outfitted with limited ski and fat-bike rentals as well as rest areas, a firepit and outhouse. Parking is available at strategic locations along the trail.
Outdoor lovers flock to Ottawa’s Greenbelt, a collection of diverse protected lands that encircle the city. The Greenbelt offers free access to over 150 kilometres (93 miles) of recreational trails that support various activities year-round, including over 40 kilometres (24.8 miles) of mechanically-groomed cross-country trails. From downtown Ottawa, head west to Shirleys Bay, south-west to Stoney Swamp, south to Pinhey Forest and Pine Grove, or east to Mer Bleue and Green’s Creek. Many of these locations are also great for walking, hiking, snowshoeing and tobogganing.
DOWNHILL SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING
Gatineau Park may be the cross-country mecca of Canada’s capital, but it’s also home to the closest downhill ski and snowboard centre to downtown Ottawa! Camp Fortune offers more than 20 different downhill runs varying from beginner to expert levels. The ski centre is also popular for night skiing with 12 brightly lit runs available from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. You can easily explore Ottawa and go skiing in the same day!
And if you’ve mastered going down the Camp Fortune mountain from its highest elevation at 180 metres (590 feet), why not visit the terrain park? Practice your skills on jumps, rails, boxes and a wall. Lessons and equipment rentals are also available on site.
Located at about a half hour drive from downtown Ottawa, Ski Vorlage is a family ski centre in Wakefield, Québec, which caters to children and beginner alpine skiers. Downhill enthusiasts can enjoy 18 different runs, of which 13 are available for night skiing six days a week. And like Camp Fortune, “Vorlage” as it’s known locally, also offers a trick rail and box terrain park. Once you’ve mastered the 149-metre (490-foot) vertical, head to the park to see what else you can do on skis or on a snowboard. Lessons and equipment rentals are also available on site.
Also located in Wakefield, Québec, Sommet Edelweiss ski centre offers 20 different downhill runs that provide great options for beginners, intermediate and expert skiers. Edelweiss’ longest trail is Easy Street, which snakes and makes its way down the scenic mountain over 1.5 kilometres (0.9 miles). Like other local ski centres, Edelweiss offers night skiing on 14 brightly lit and groomed runs. Edelweiss is also home to one of the Ottawa-Gatineau region’s greatest terrain parks, which offers trick snow rollers, rails, boxes and walls. For extra family fun, try snow tubing as well! Lessons and equipment rentals are available on site.
Mont Cascades Ski Resort
Located in nearby Cantley, Québec, about a half hour drive from downtown Ottawa, Mont Cascades offers a big cozy ski chalet and 20 different runs for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. This ski centre also offers 15 brightly lit night skiing runs; the largest amount of night time runs in the Ottawa-Gatineau region! Mont Cascades’ longest run is Gratton, which makes its way down the mountain over two kilometres (1.2 miles). Lessons and equipment rentals are available on site.
Located at about a 45-minute drive west from Ottawa in the town of Pakenham, Ontario, this small vertical is a great place to try downhill skiing or snowboarding for the first time. With a vertical drop of 85 metres (280 feet), Mount Pakenham offers 10 beginner-friendly runs as well as a T-Bar lift and a Carpet lift, which make it easier for little ones and beginners to access the hill’s terrain. Expert skiiers and snowboarders can also have fun at this smaller resort’s terrain park and in its wooded trails known as “glades.” Lessons and equipment rentals are available on site.
Calabogie Peaks Ski Resort
Located at about an hour’s drive from downtown Ottawa, Calabogie Peaks offers 80 acres of skiable terrain and 24 different trails. Of those trails, 30 per cent are beginner-friendly, 45 per cent are intermediate-friendly and 25 per cent are for the advanced or expert skier. Calabogie is considered to be the best mountain in Eastern Ontario! With a base elevation of 154 metres (505 feet), Calabogie’s longest trail is 2.1 kilometres (1.3 miles). For more of a challenge, visit one of the hill’s ski and snowboard terrain parks, including a cross track, a rail park and a mogul field. Lessons and equipment rentals are available on site.
Just over one hour’s drive north of Ottawa is the highest vertical in the region: 381 vertical metres (1250 feet)! Mont Ste-Marie ski resort in Quebec has nearly 30 runs (including a ski/snowboard cross run) spread out over two peaks. Vanier Mountain offers beginner and intermediate terrain, while the steeper Cheval Blanc peak has intermediate and expert terrain.
MAJOR SKIING EVENTS
Every year in February, Canada’s capital region hosts two major cross-country events that attract skiers of all levels from around the world:
Gatineau Loppet: Canada’s biggest international cross-country ski event attracts thousands of skiers from some 20 different countries to Gatineau Park. As a member of the Worldloppet league, the Gatineau Loppet is part of a circuit of the 20 biggest cross-country ski races around the world. The competition features 8 cross-country ski races, 3 snowshoe races and 3 fat bike races.
Canadian Ski Marathon (CSM): Each year, thousands of skiers participate in the world’s longest and oldest Nordic ski tour which runs throughout rural areas of the Outaouais region east of Gatineau, Quebec. Since the CSM is not a race, participants can cover as little as 12 kilometres (7 miles) or as much as the entire 160 kilometres (99 miles) of ski trails.
For more wintry fun, take a look at our suggestions for Wonderful Winter Activities.