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Rideau Canal Skateway, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the Guinness Book of World Record‘s largest naturally freezing ice rink in the world, has had some problems this year fulfilling its frozen requirement.

The canal-turned-rink in Ontario, Canada, was originally constructed as a slack-water canal for the military. Today, it is used for recreational ice-skating. The rink is made up of sections of the Rideau and Cataraqui rivers; it flows south from Ottawa to Lake Ontario and the site got a protected status in 2007.

Historically, the canal freezes over beginning in late December or early January and lasts through late February or early March each year. Once the 4.8 mile canal freezes over, it becomes Ontario’s premier — and free — winter destination. Freezing over is no easy feat either; the entire canal is equivalent to 90 Olympic-sized hockey rinks and usually has about 20,000 people skating on it on any given day.

For the canal to freeze over and transform into a skating rink, it takes 10 consecutive nights of temperatures below 14 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the weather this past December did not cooperate, and it was not cold enough to create solid ice. The rink officially opened on January 5, 2018, but closed several times during January due to adverse conditions that affected the ice. The rink reopened February 6, but at this point, its season will be significantly less than years prior.

Typically, the rink stays open about 50 days during a normal year. The past two years before the current season experienced less than 35 days where the rink was skate-able. If the trend of warmer winters continues, ice-skating on this record-breaking UNESCO site may cease altogether.

H/T: National Geographic

Featured image by Perry McKenna via Getty Images. 

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