Article from Dutch News 01-02-2012
Ice fever heats up in Holland Wednesday 01 February 2012
As soon as the temperature drops below freezing, ice fever hits the Netherlands. Skates are sharpened and enthusiasts monitor the weather forecast closely in the hope that it will be cold enough to skate outside.
The big question on everyone's lips is always, will there be an Elfstedentocht this year - the marathon ice race between the 11 cities of Friesland over a 200 km course.
The last edition of the skating marathon took place in 1997 and natural ice enthusiasts have been looking wistfully at their skates ever since. The ice has to be at least 15 cm to host the race, which attracts thousands of entrants.
This year, the odds are slim. The Volkskrant quotes weatherman Marco Verhoef who thinks there is a 25% chance the race will be on. ‘We can’t predict if the ice will grow sufficiently’, he says.
‘But if I had to say yes or no at this moment the answer would be no. And the ice will have to be extra strong to carry the spectators who will come to Friesland in large numbers.’
Television presenter Jort Kelder says if the event does go ahead, it should not be hijacked by commerce.
‘The Elfsteden marathon is an event for the people, like the dip in the sea on New Year's day. It’s not for sausage makers’, Kelder, a vegetarian, told chat show De Wereld Draait Door. Kelder is referring to smoked sausage maker Unox which supplies the intrepid swimmers with free Unox hats, generating massive publicity for the brand.
While the weather forecasters are still out on the prospects for a long freeze - and there are signs the temperatures might rise towards the end of next week - skating enthusiasts are already taking advantage of what ice there is.
The first outdoor races have already been held -without the Dutch outdoor champions. The warm winter has forced them to head for Austria to stage the annual Dutch outdoor championships.
NRC journalist Arjen Fortuin (half Frisian) describes what it feels like to skate on natural ice. ‘Proper skating is done outside, on natural ice, with real holes, real cracks and real cold. If you push off gently, your skates straight on the ice, you hardly make a sound. It’s no more than a short soft scratching noise.
'You hardly move: you sway, gently pushing away the ice with your feet. You don’t seem to do anything much at all and yet you fly like a comet. Somewhere in that combination is the element that makes long distance skating so addictive.’
Meanwhile, experts are warning that the ice is still very thin and there are still many large patches of open water where the wind has stopped the ice from forming properly.
And as the freeze continues all the papers carry the list of do's and don’ts issued by the authorities in case, as the KNMI has predicted, it will feel like minus 15 Celsius this week.
Know what the weather will be doing, wear a hat and gloves, wear proper shoes, and wear layered clothing. Never go out in the car without a coat, a sleeping bag and a fully charged mobile. Keep moving and avoid the wind, look out for elderly neighbours and feed the birds.
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