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 and snowboarding experiences in Canada’s capital region!
Just a 15-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 a favourite ski touring destination!
Admission to Gatineau Park is free throughout the year, but a Cross-Country Ski Pass (seasonal or daily) is required to use the ski trails in the winter season. Certain hotels in the Ottawa-Gatineau area offer guests special discounts on daily passes. As ski equipment is not available on site, you must bring your own or rent some. (Snowshoeing and fat biking are other popular activities in the park. Snowshoeing equipment rentals are available on site.) Along the trails you’ll find 10 cozy wood cabins with picnic tables, wood-burning stoves and outhouses. You can also stay overnight in a four-season tent, yurt or cabin!
For more information on how to best plan your excursion, including access, parking, trail conditions and an interactive map, visit the National Capital Commission’s cross-country-skiing webpage.
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 along 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? At Remic Rapids, a small Nordic Village is outfitted with limited ski and fat-bike rentals as well as rest areas, a firepit and outhouse. Along the trail, you’ll find several parking areas and the handy LRT O-Train Confederation Line.
Outdoor lovers flock to Ottawa’s Greenbelt, a collection of diverse protected lands that surround the city. The Greenbelt has 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 (its highest elevation is 180 metres or 590 feet). The ski centre is also popular for night skiing with 12 brightly lit runs. You can also practice your skills at the terrain park which features jumps, rails, boxes and a wall.
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. The site, which has a top elevation of 149 metres (490 feet), features 18 different runs – 13 of which are open for night skiing six days a week. You can also let loose at the trick rail and box terrain park
Also located in Wakefield, Québec, Sommet Edelweiss ski centre has trails that range from easy to difficult. The site’s peak elevation of 350 metres (1,148 feet) is the perfect setting for its 20 runs – 14 of which are open for skiing under the stars. Edelweiss is also home to one of the region’s greatest terrain parks, which offers trick snow rollers, rails, boxes and walls. For extra family fun, try snow tubing as well!
Mont Cascades Ski Resort
Located in nearby Cantley, Québec, about a half hour drive from downtown Ottawa, Mont Cascades features a big cozy chalet at the bottom of its 305-metre (1000-feet) peak. Choose from 20 runs that range from easy to extremely difficult – 15 of which are open in the evening – as well as a snow park and snowshoe trails.
Located about a 45-minute drive west from Ottawa in the town of Pakenham, Ontario, Mount Pakenham offers a compact downhill experience. This 85-metre (280-foot) hill has 10 runs that range from easy to difficult. There’s also a terrain park, tubing and snowshoeing.
Calabogie Peaks Ski Resort
Located about an hour’s drive west from downtown Ottawa, Calabogie Peaks is the tallest public ski resort in Eastern Ontario! With a base elevation of 154 metres (505 feet), Calabogie offers 80 acres of skiable terrain and 24 different trails that range from easy to expert. The hill also features a ski and snowboard terrain park, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and pond skating. To take advantage of these activities, you’ll want to stay overnight in the hotel or condo suites.
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 draws 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.