It’s not every day you can go ice skating on Amsterdam’s canals however when the reduced Countries freeze, there's just one thing we all want to do: go natural ice skating!
Whenever the temperature drops below zero for more than a day, the Dutch get a certain extra sparkle to them. It is the possibility that they'll once again have the fortune to visit roller skating. Oh sure, almost always there is those artificial ice rinks – but what really tantalises the Dutch is the prospect of skating on natural ice and Dutch speed skating. Ever tried roller skating in Amsterdam’s canals?
There are lakes, canals and ponds all over the Netherlands that freeze up enough to skate on. Every winter there's huge speculation concerning the Elfstedentoch, the Eleven-Cities Tour, a 200km marathon skate in Friesland that takes place positioned on natural ice. So rare one thing enough ice to forms along the route it has only been run 15 times since it officially began in 1909, although the Dutch speed skating race is said to have been around for hundreds of years.
In 1963, conditions were so extreme that some competitors lost toes to frostbite while some skated quickly the ice once they could no more begin to see the edge of the skating surface. And still, would-be competitors register and pay a charge every year, hoping to be a part of the next Dutch speek skating race.
Unfortunately, only members of the official association (De Vereniging De Friesche Elf Steden) qualify to become listed on the race, which starts and finishes within the Friesland capital of Leeuwarden. A lottery decides which lucky skaters can get to compete, however it isn't held until the mercury dips low enough.
Conditions for that race are very specific so that as soon as the ice has reached the necessary thickness of 16cm, the race is going to be called to take place 2 days later (48 hours). Each winter consistent freezing temperatures spark furious speculation as to whether or not the wedding will be held, which was not run since 4 January 1997.
But that doesn't mean you can't get working for yourself two blades. Check the daily paper in your area for the Schaats Kalender. This is when you'll find all of the nearby places to safely hit the ice. Many expats hail from places cold enough to have learned to skate from an earlier age, but few people take the opportunity to skate on natural ice. While the ice might not be Zamboni-smooth the experience is well worth a go. And what’s more fun for tourists or expats than roller skating in Amsterdam on a regular basis?
Ice skating in the Netherlands
For those who've never tried skating, the game offers great exercise and can be fun whether you're on your own or perhaps in an organization. All that's necessary are your skates plus some warm clothes. Some helpful websites – although in Dutch – for natural ice skating news, weather and knowledge from round the country is www.natuurijswijzer.nl and www.schaatsen.nl. There is also a national skating authority, known as the Royal Dutch Skating Association or Koninklijke Nederlandsche Schaatsenrijders Bond (KNSB).
You may also find websites providing updates on skating competitions; however, taking part in these races often requires advanced registration. If you want to hit the ice, you can usually find at least one man-made rink, or ijsbaan, in your local area, and among the favourite being the rink for ice skating in Amsterdam. Check www.schaats.pagina.nl.
If it does get cold enough, those in the know say there is no better method to see National Park de Weerribben (www.deweerribben.nl) than you are on skates, since you can easily go to locations that might otherwise be extremely difficult to achieve.
The only significant downside to skating on natural ice is that you need your own skates since it is virtually impossible to book skates to consider to the local ice pond. If you're not sure whether you need to invest in a pair, you can check out a rink where one can rent skates and glide on the ice for some time. Oomssport, for instance, has some locations with indoor rinks where you can rent before choosing.
In holland you can find hockey and figure skates, but more common are the ones using the long blades, used in speed skating. There's also klapschaats, a contraption that you could strap onto specialised boots, which leave the heels unattached, the same way that cross-country skis work. Older versions of these can often be found in second-hand and antique shops but try these at the own risk.
For more information about natural ice skating areas, events and local conditions, seek advice from the national skating association website, www.knsb.nl.
Ice skating Amsterdam
Ice skating in Amsterdam's frozen canals offers a unique winter experience, although it’s certainly not possible every year. In general the temperature must fall below -4°C for several consecutive nights before the ice is thick enough to allow roller skating in Amsterdam. Once the conditions start to look right, sometimes Amsterdam blocks boat traffic from certain canals to permit water to freeze.
If that’s incorrect, you can always head to the man-made ICE*Amsterdam rink between November and February; focused on Amsterdam’s Museumplein with the Rijksmuseum like a backdrop, it offers a distinctive backdrop for ice-skating in Amsterdam.
Eleven cities’ tour (Friesland)
If the temperature drops enough so canals freeze over to a depth of 15cm along the 200km route, keep an eye out with this gruelling skating marathon through the northern province of Friesland. The Eleven-Cities Tour in Friesland has been run only 15 times since 1909.
To find a skating club click the Schaatsclubs link on www.schaats.pagina.nl.