Right now everyone’s an ice expert.
But this could be the first time since I moved to the Netherlands that the legendary long distance skating race, the Elfstedentocht, is run.
Every winter when the temperatures drop the discussion begins, and even though the last two winters have been cold, with plenty of ice around they haven’t been cold enough – or there’s been too much snow – for the right quality of ice to form along the two hundred kilometer route. You can see the route, and the Eleven Cities that make up the race on the official site for the Elfstedentocht 2012.
This year we’ve had plenty of cold – the temperature in Amsterdam has been below zero for the last two weeks, with windchill taking the temperature to a nasty negative 17 some nights. There’s been one snow fall of any size. And a cold dry wind. Perfect conditions for ice, people have been skating on the canals in the city. Across Friesland volunteers have been preparing the track, and organising check stations for the skaters, places for people to stay. And the Ice Master (yes, really) has been scrutinising the ice formation, and watching the weather.
For those who complete the race, which the winners do in under 7 hours, there’s the honour and a small medal commemorating the race – a colleague’s grandfather has one. Thousands start the race, but not everyone finishes, in the year of 1963, when the cold was so severe that many participants got frostbite only 69 of the more than ten thousand who started finished the race. You can see a short movie of the race here (in Dutch only).
I’ve heard people talk about this race every year. I’ll be thrilled if it actually happens. However temperatures are forecast to rise this weekend… and there isn’t yet enough ice on the southern part of the course.
Well it’s official – the ice in the south of Friesland is not thick enough, and there will not be an elfstedentocht this year.