An idea with… snowball effect!
Winterlude was created in 1979 by the National Capital Commission (NCC) to celebrate Canada's unique northern culture and climate. Organizers were inspired by our ancestors who, when winter isolated the region from the rest of the world, gathered to have fun and enjoy each other’s company. Those were the days of sleigh rides, curling competitions, singalongs, sledding and skating!
Over the years, Winterlude has created new winter activities! Just think of the famous bed race or the waiters and waitresses on ice challenge! And Trotting on ice, a horse race on the Rideau Canal Skateway that kicked off the very first Winterlude on February 4, 1979. Since then, the festivities have been held in Ottawa-Gatineau every year in February.
What is now considered the flagship event of the winter tourist season in Canada's Capital Region, Winterlude works in collaboration with many partners to offer a varied program that combines classic winter pleasures and indoor activities.
1978: A day of celebration is organized in Ottawa that attracts a few hundred curious people who watch a bed race and meet ByTowne Bert, a magical creature who apparently came from... under the ice on the Rideau Canal!
1979: The National Capital Commission (NCC) creates Winterlude, a week-long event. The mascot is back, its name is Ice Hog, most likely the ancestor of the Ice Hogs, whose legend remains a great mystery.
1980: Approximately 100,000 visitors. Activities are concentrated around Dows Lake.
1982: Attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest human chain. To achieve this, 17,000 people hold hands along the Rideau Canal Skateway but the goal is not achieved.
1983: Hockey game between MPs and members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery (a very popular event that was later repeated). First international component with the creation of a snow sculpture presented by Italy.
1984: First international competition with the arrival of 400 Dutch skaters. Since then, skaters as well as ice and snow sculptors from around the world have participated in various competitions.
1985: Approximately 500,000 visitors. Activities are held at several sites (Rideau Canal and Dows Lake, Confederation Park, Jacques-Cartier Park).
1991: Approximately 1.2 million visitors.
1993: Winterlude celebrates its 15th anniversary. Creation of the tallest snowman in Canada, measuring over 16 metres in height.
1994: Changed from a 10-day event to three consecutive weekends of activities.
2003: Winterlude celebrates its 25th anniversary.
2005: The mild weather forces organizers to cover the ice sculptures to keep them from completely melting (which unfortunately happens on the last day of Winterlude).
2007: Approximately 1.6 million visitors, a record participation!
2013: Last Winterlude organized by the National Capital Commission which passes the torch to Heritage Canada.
2018: Winterlude celebrates its 40th anniversary.
2019: Winterlude carries through its new vision by offering more cultural programming and new destinations (ByWard Market, Sparks Street, Downtown Rideau and the Glebe). Aboriginal culture is featured on the 1st weekend and LGBTQ2+ culture, history and pride on the 2nd weekend.
Winterlude mascots: the Ice Hog Family
The Ice Hog Family travels to Canada’s Capital Region every winter to celebrate Winterlude. The family includes Mama and Papa Ice Hog and their children, Noumi and Nouma. They love to give hugs and play in the snow. Discover the legend behind these adorable furry visitors!