The rush for winter gear as Ottawa residents prepare for a COVID-19 winter outdoors

Wednesday's dusting of snow has many people thinking about how to make the most out of winter during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lure of the great outdoors has created a buying frenzy for equipment in Ottawa to stay active this winter.

At Fresh Air Experience on Wellington Street in Ottawa, keeping a healthy stock of cross-country skis, clothing and accessories has been anything but easy.  Owner Jon Digney usually does not see this level of sales, which he compares to the Christmas-Boxing Day week, until the first big snowfall in December. 

"We had customers calling in September looking for skis," says Digney. "People are recognizing that jogging and biking and skiing are good ways to keep active and de-stress obviously."

The shop has some experience in this style of sales-boom. In the spring and summer, they sell bikes and running gear. Now, Fresh Air Experience is prepared for the boom of COVID activity seekers looking to make the most out of winter. 

Customers like Carol Anne Maher, who has decided that it is time to take up a sport she has been putting off. 

"We've been talking about it for years and of course during COVID we are actually going to do it this year because we have nothing else to do," says Maher, who purchased a cross-country ski package.

"The more experienced skiers are going to get annoyed at you know the rookies trying to get on their trails," said Maher, laughing.

In what will likely be a winter of continued lockdowns and restrictions, many will stay close to home and make the great outdoors a big part of their winter. The City of Ottawa is planning to promote that. 

Councillor Riley Brockington's motion to develop a campaign highlighting outdoor amenities like skating rinks and activities like tobogganing, many of which are free, passed unanimously at Council on Wednesday. 

"This is a winter city and we want people to be outside and enjoy it," says Brockington. "There's a strong connection between being physically active and engaged and exposed to sunlight in the winter and feeling better improving mental health."

Digney agrees and his sales are proving it. He recommends making an online appointment.

The store has been set-up to be physically distant, with individual tables and sales associates for each customer and everything wiped down after.