With the heavy frost set to continue for at least another week, skating fans have begun to speculate about the possibility of an Elfstedentocht, the gruelling 200 km skating race around the 11 cities of Friesland.
Although the race association – the Vereniging de Friesche Elf Steden – is unwilling to comment on the likelihood of staging the race, weather forecasters say the frost could continue to the end of the month.
‘It is up to nature whether or not the race happens. We first have to wait and see if it continues to freeze and if it freezes enough,’ a spokesman for the association said.
Nos weatherman Marco Verhoef says ice will continue to grow in Friesland, and the prospects have been helped by the lack of snow in northern areas. In order for the race to go ahead, the entire route needs an ice thickness of 15-16 cm.
The Weeronline.nl, MeteoConsult and Weerplaza weather forecasting agencies all say there is a strong chance the frost will continue. A spokesman for Weeronline.nl told the Volkskrant the lack of snow and wind are extremely promising and the prospects for holding the race have not been so good in years.
If the race goes ahead, thousands of people will take part in an event that was last held in 1997. However, to join in, participants must be a member of the Elfstedentocht association and win a place to race in a lottery.
The last winner, sprout farmer Henk Angenent, completed the course along canals and ditches and across lakes in six hours, 49 minutes.
Leeuwarden is both the start and finish of the event, which takes in the 11 ‘cities’ of Friesland: Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker and Dokkum.
In Amsterdam the city council has imposed a ban on sailing through the main canal rings in an effort to give the canals a chance to freeze over. The sluices have also been closed to stop the water flow.
Last winter the capital’s canals were frozen for long enough to allow skating for the first time in 15 years.
Elsewhere, local ice clubs are preparing for outdoor skating races and routes. The Hulshorst club in the Veluwe national park region has rented a helicopter in an effort to blast snow off the Veluwemeer lake, so the ice can grow more strongly.
The club thinks this novel way of clearing the snow will cost it up to €1,000.