Wednesday 25 May 2022

Plenty of ice masters but little hope of a big freeze this winter

Skating in Broek in Waterland, north of Amsterdam. Photo:

Perhaps spurred on by last year’s spells of cold weather which lasted long enough to take to the ice, some 850 people have heeded a call from skating federation KNSB to become a member of the Guild of Dutch Ice Masters.

Although the name suggests otherwise, the guild does not date from the Middle Ages but has been freshly minted to ensure the survival of what is a time-honoured craft.

‘We didn’t think this many people would apply,’ Rieks Poelman, in charge of the natural ice section of the KNSB and himself an ice master, told Omrop Fryslân. ‘We now have twice as many  ice masters as we have skating divisions,’ he said.

The craft of assessing the quality of the ice and whether it is strong enough to sustain weight was increasingly resting on the shoulders of elderly ice masters, Poelman explained. ‘But fortunately people aged 20 to 40 reacted in their droves.’

Optimism is perhaps part and parcel of being an ice master and Poelman is hopeful 2022 will see another Elfstedentocht in February, despite the fact that the last ‘tour of tours’ took place in 1997.

Candidate ice master Johannes Visser from Dokkum said he too hoped he could use his new-found knowledge this winter. ‘But I don’t think it will happen.’

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