Get your skates off: first race on natural ice damp squib

Skating on natural ice is very popular - when it is possible. Photo:

Skating enthusiasts in Winterwijk in the Achterhoek in Gelderland had been setting their sights on the first marathon on natural ice this weekend, but hopes were melting as temperatures rose on Friday.

“We stopped spraying water on the circuit last night,” ice master Auke Spijkstra told broadcaster NOS. “This morning I saw that car windows weren’t even frozen and the ice had all but disappeared. It’s very sad,” he said.

The marathon would be have been the first for Winterswijk and invites had already gone out to potential competitors, most of whom were on training camps, some as far afield as Gran Canaria.

Despite an innovative ice-making system, devised by a student at Twente University and based on floor insulation and spraying the exact right amount of water on the surface, the weather had the last word.

The competition for the honour of hosting the first natural ice marathon between northern communities is intense. In 2021 the first race was held on December 26 in Noordlaren, and the Frisian town of Burgum had the honours last year.

The Netherlands’ most famous marathon on natural ice, the Elfstedentocht, was last held in on January 4 1997 in temparatures of minus 6°  in the morning and minus 3° in the afternoon. The first Elfstedentocht took place in 1909.

In Friesland, home of the Elfstedentocht, skating on (untreated) natural ice will not be happening either. “It’s no good at all,” skating hopefuls who had come to test the ice on Friday said.

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