…. on two blades and quite smooth ice
Friday morning at 6.30 am and -15° Celsius, the sun is still hiding deeply below the Kärntner alps. Otto de Boer pulls his scarf closer around his neck and a puts on his headlight. Beside him another 1500 early risers who gathered in the charming little place Weissensee in Austria are looking forward to the starting signal – the starting signal for an unusual but by now traditional spectacle: the “Alternative Dutch 11-Cities-Tour“. The scenery ist he biggest natural ice surface in all of Europe: The Weissensee.
Ice skating is Otto de Boers passion – a sport that has reached dimensions in the Netherlands which in Switzerland, Austria and Germany are only familiar with ski sports. The 45 year old dutch from the region of Holten was standing on the ice already with the age of 5 using an old chair as support. “If you live in the Netherlands and winter is coming you get on the ice – this has always been the case”. Therefore to go on a 40 to 100 kilometer tour on lakes and canals is nothing extraordinary explains de Boer. A highlight for every ice skater is the “Elfstedentocht” (Frisian for 11-Cities-Tour). Since the end of the 19th century the route leads over 200 kilometers across 11 cities in Frisia. However, the last Elfstedentocht took place long time ago, namely 13 years ago. But to the disappointment of the athletes the climate warming leads to milder winters – bad preconditions if you are dependent on a several centimeter thick layer of ice on the waters. Therefore, the ice skates have been packed in the Netherlands and a new paradise for skaters have been found across the boarders: the Weissensee. For the 27th time the highest lake of Kärnten has already been the venue for the Alternative Dutch 11-Cities-Tour. More than 5000 guests gathered at Austrians natural playground. Otto de Boer has arrived back again. “For me it is all about being part of it and enjoying the sport and nature. And of course I don’t want to be the last to finish. Pros are able to make the route within 6 hours however, I will take more time and usually arrive after 9 to 10 hours. But after all I need some breath to celebrate the “blisterball” in the evening. We ice skaters are like a big family – we get together every year at the Weissensee – it is a special atmosphere.
Otto de Boer goes into raptures while talking about the past few days in Austria. He doesn’t have to think long when asked what he likes most about this sport: “the physical work is a good balance for my work in the bureau. Letting the nature pass by and to hear nothing but the slide of the blades on the ice is total relaxation. It is a good feeling when I arrive at the finish line after 200 kilometers where after, I always notice: a person can achieve more than he would think.”
There are no special rules by the way: “If someone feels like not being able to go on after 100 kilometers he can simply stop.” The exertions of this sport are not to underestimate. De Boers starts his training in the ice rink already in October. Twice a week during two hours in other words around 50 kilometers per training. During the summer volleyball and running keeps the muscles and condition in shape. “For all kinds of distance sports is “doorzettingvermogen” as it is known by us a necessity, which means strength and endurance. Without this it is not manageable. However this is not only true for sport but for life in general.
Speaking of ice skating a goal is still to be achieved for de Boer: to skate on Swedish ice and participate in a similar tour as in Austria. However, more days off are necessary, which is difficult to realize working in the winter business. Therefore, Otto de Boer enjoys the three days in Austria even more. If the long distance of 1100 kilometers between Holten and Weissensee isn’t to much of an effort we would still like to know. “Quite the contrary. On the street I then meet our great winter service vehicles in action. This is not only engendering a good mood but is also a source of pride”. We wish a safe journey and always “a handbreadth of ice under the blades”.
Since 2001 Otto de Boer works at the Location in Holten at Aebi Schmidt Nederland BV. As a service manager export he is the interface between the plant, the service departments of the LSO’s and the external commercial agencies. In his daily work he supports colleagues from Canada to Japan and distributors in technical details of the products, takes care of technical instructions and is the contact person for warranty handling.