Dutch Language Blog

The Dutch Alternative for the Elfstedentocht   Posted by on Aug 28, 2015 in Culture


The Dutch Tocht der Tochten (tour of tours), the 200 km (120 mi) long ice skating tour that runs through eleven cities in the province Friesland in the winter, has an unfortunate fate. Everybody is hopeful each year again that the Elfstedentocht (eleven cities tour) will happen, though sadly this is usually not the case.The ice is often just not thick enough! 15 cm (6 in) at least is sufficient – which is often not achieved. It was held the first time in 1909, and since has only happened 15 times, with the last tocht in 1997.

Ice skating on natural ice in a cold Dutch winter. (Image by Paul van Eijden at Flickr.com)

What about all the fanatics of ice skating, all those that trained long and hard to be able to skate over 200 km? After all, the Elfstedentocht is held on creeks, rivers and canals – natural ice. The smooth surface of an artificial ice skating rink is just not the same. So what to do? Find an alternative natural surface to be able to skate on. It should be big, so 200 km can be done on it, and it should be well frozen. Both things are often not available in the Netherlands. So the Dutch move elsewhere – Austria.

Every year, thousands of Dutch people travel all the way to the Weissenseelake in Austria to ride the alternative Elfstedentocht that is organized there. With its length of 11.9 km (around 7 mi), a circuit for skating 200 km can be created. To and fro is 20 km – so already 10 laps are equivalent to the real Tocht der Tochten. Furthermore, because of its narrow size and high altitude, the lake is guaranteed to be frozen with a thickness of at least 60 cm (2 ft) every winter. So perfect conditions for this alternative Elfstedentocht!

Ice Skating during the Alternatieve Elfstedentocht Weissensee in Austria (Image by pattininews at Flickr.com)

In Weissensee, the alternative tour is held at the end of January or the beginning of February, just like the actual Elfstedentocht would. Thistocht has been organized byAlternatieve Elfstedentocht Weissensee (AEW) since 1989. Only twice, in 2007 and 2014, it was not held due to bad weather. In 2007, a replacingtocht was organized on the Khuvskol Lake in Mongolia.

Each year, around 6000 Dutch people go to this tocht. There are four recreational tours, and of course the speed skating race of 200 km. The winner of 2015 rode those 200 km in a (to me) stunningly fast 5 hours and 27 minutes!


Do you like ice skating – and would you make your way to the Weissensee? Could you do it faster? 😉

Also, is there a sport in your country that has certain (weather) requirements? And is there a sort of alternative for it if those requirements are not met?


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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.