Austrian lake offers climate haven for Dutch ice skaters | 2/1/2019 | Staff
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For over two decades climate change has prevented a hallowed fixture in the Dutch ice skating calendar. But devotees of this national obsession have found refuge in the Austrian Alps—all thanks to James Bond.

Over the past two weeks, thousands of ice skaters—almost all of them Dutch—have flocked to the Weissensee lake, 930 metres above sea level in southern Austria, in order to recreate the spirit of outdoor ice skating's Holy Grail: the "Elfstedentocht".

Race - Towns - Netherlands - Canals - Years

It's a race which originally linked 11 towns in the Netherlands via frozen canals but for 22 years a lack of ice has meant organising it there has been impossible.

Instead, hundreds could be seen gathering on the lake before sunrise earlier this week, headlamps ready and raring to set off on the 200-kilometre (124-mile) route in temperatures of minus 10 degrees C (14 degrees F).

Solutions - Countries - Toine - Doreleijers - Organiser

"We searched for solutions in several European countries," says Toine Doreleijers, the organiser of the "Alternative Elfstedentocht".

"But nowhere else did we find a frozen lake that was so stable."

James - Bond - Discovery

And it was none other than James Bond that led them to the discovery in 1987.

"When the film 'The Living Daylights' came out, there was a car chase scene on a lake and it was obvious that if this ice could support that, it could also support thousands of skaters," says Doreleijers.

Race - Godsend - Weissensee - Locality

The race has proved a godsend for the 700-strong Weissensee locality.

Almut Knaller, from the local tourism office, says the event pulls in 40,000 overnight stays.

Beforehand - Christmas - Thank - James - Bond

"Beforehand, after Christmas, it would get very quiet. Thank you, James Bond!"

'Ice Master'

Elfstedentocht - Weissensee - Route - Netherlands - Time

The "Alternative Elfstedentocht" has been held annually in Weissensee since 1989, while the original route in the Netherlands has only been usable once in that time, in 1997.

Harry van den Heuvel, a 56-year-old logistics manager, is one of those who've come halfway across the continent to compete.


"The true route...
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