Tour skating

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Tour skating is an official skating sport and a form of long distance ice skating practised on natural ice tracks and on longer ice tracks on the ground.[1] Tour skating is often confused with Nordic skating (Sweden), which is another sport. In Sweden the Dutch Skating of Toerschaatsen is not an official sport and thus the English term is used differently.

Tour skating and Nordic skating are two different sports.[2] Tour skating is developed from the Dutch skating schaatsen or toerschaatsen.[3] Typical tour skates (see Dutch Viking combi models, etc.) or Dutch skates are skates with long blades. In the Nordic countries so-called 'multiskate' models are popular, which are used in skate-skiing. Speed skates and marathon skates are also used in tour skating.

Nordic skating (swe. långfärdsskridsko) is a recreational type of skating on natural ice with all the safety equipment, developed in Sweden and it is becoming increasingly popular also in the Nordic countries, especially Sweden, but increasingly in Finland and Norway, where it is called långfärdsskridsko (Swedish), retkiluistelu (Finnish) and turskøyting (Norwegian). In Canada and the USA this style is often called Nordic skating. Other names used are trip skating and wild skating.

Another sport of skating, which is popular in the Netherlands, is called toerschaatsen, which was made an official skating sport in Finland.[4]

While Nordic skating usually involves choosing your own tours over the ice on lakes and seas on open and free ice, in the Netherlands skaters follow marked routes on frozen canals and lakes. Consequently the equipment used and safety requirements differ very much between these two skating sports.

Nordic skating[edit]

Nordic skating was developed during the 1900s in Sweden from the original Dutch Skating which is another sport. Nordic skating is not known nor practised in the Netherlands. Nordic skating usually involves choosing your own tours over the free ice in groups with all safety equipment. Nordic skating is only practised on free and open ice, not in tracks nor other manmade iceways. Nordic skates differ significantly from the Dutch tourskates.

Nordic equipment[edit]

Nordic tour skates are fitted with a blade approximately 50 cm long and are attached with bindings to specialized boots similar to walking boots or cross country skiing boots, often with a free heel. Since tour skating often involves walking between lakes or around sections not suitable for skating, the fact that the blades can be easily removed from the boots is convenient.

In addition the following safety equipment is often recommended:

  • ice prods or ice claws - a pair of metal spikes with handles like sharpened screwdrivers for hauling yourself out of holes in the ice
  • ice pike or hansa pole - a pole with a metal spike like a particularly sturdy skipole used to test the ice thickness
  • throwing line - a rope to be pulled out of the water by
  • rucksack with waistband and groin strap containing a change of clothes in plastic bags. This also acts as a buoyancy aid.

Knee and elbow pads and a helmet are also commonly used.

Skating season[edit]

In late autumn/early winter the small lakes freeze first, sometimes as early as October. If snow falls these lakes can become unskateable. Next the somewhat larger lakes freeze and become skateable.

In January–February parts of the archipelago in the Baltic sea often freeze. This is the time when long skating tours can be undertaken. Tours of 60–80 km in one day are not uncommon - some skate over 150 km.


Sweden's largest tour skating association is "The Stockholm Ice Skate Sailing and Touring Club" (SSSK).[5] Finland's largest tour skating association is Finland's Tour Skaters.[6] Several associations in Sweden, Finland, Norway, Netherlands, and U.S.A. are members of Skridskonätet.[7] Through Skridskonätet, the members of the various associations share information on where ice suitable for skating can be found. Skridskonätet also maintains a list of tour skating clubs[8] in mainly Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands.

Dutch (toer)skating[edit]

Two tour skating styles: Netherlands (left) and Nordic (right), on a canal in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, the Dutch skating is called Toerschaatsen, where skaters follow marked routes on frozen canals and lakes, which are coordinated by the Royal Netherlands Skating Union.[9][10]

Despite its moderate climate in which real cold winters are rare, skating is traditionally the most popular winter pastime in the Netherlands. Thousands of Dutch leap at the chance in cold winters to tie up their skates and glide across frozen lakes and canals, and sports stores all over the country sell out their skates.

Dutch equipment[edit]

The skaters mostly use common such skates with long blades or speed skates, with long blades rigidly attached to the skating shoes. Ice-poles and other safety equipment are not carried.

Dutch skating tracks[edit]

The Netherlands is home of Elfstedentocht, a 200 km distance skating race of which the tracks leads through the 11 different cities in Friesland which is a northern province of the Netherlands.

Skate tracks on natural ice are maintained by the towns and communities, who take care of the safety of the tracks.

Outdoor skating in Canada[edit]

In Canada, outdoor skating on natural frozen lake and ponds is common but not as a method of travel or tourism, rather people with skate in a circular route around the lake, or create an improvised ice hockey rink for a game of "shinny".

However, starting in 1971, the section of the Rideau Canal that runs through the centre of Ottawa, the national capital, has been used as a skating corridor. This has become a major tourist attraction and a popular method of commuting in with Ottawa's locals. In 2011 932,331 people used the skateway. Starting the in 1990s The Forks area of Winnipeg, where two rivers join, has also been used as a skating trail, and by 2008 was longer than the Rideau skateway (though much narrower). Due to natural variations in ice conditions, the Assiniboine Credit Union River Trail, as it is officially called varies in length each year. Similar plans to turn Montreal's Lachine Canal into a skating venue have been discussed since 2000, but were still awaiting the needed funding in 2012.[11]

In Joliette, Quebec, two parallel skating tracks, of 4 km each, on the L'Assomption River are linked to form a loop running through the center of the town.[12]

In Invermere, British Columbia, there is a 15 km skating track on Windermere Lake.[13]

Historical Long Distance Skating in Canada[edit]

Long distance skating on lakes and rivers in eastern Canada and north-eastern USA was more common in the years between 1850 and 1900. One region of note was the lower reaches of the Saint John River in New Brunswick. In Saint John: A Sporting Tradition, Brian Flood writes:

However, on the soles of the hearty ladies and gentlemen who lived along the St John and Kennebecasis Rivers, there was a different type of skate. They used the famous "Long Reachers". Around the year 1870, James A. Whelpley patented the "Long Reach Speed Skates". Whelpley's skate factory was located at Jones Creek, on the Long Reach. Here, he turned out skates that became famous all over the continent. The skate had a blade seventeen inches long. The "woods" of the skates, at the widest point, measured less than an inch and a half. A screw protruded up a half an inch at this point. The skates were firmly attached with heel and toe straps made of heavy leather.

"Long reachers" were ideally suited for the long expanse of the St John and Kennebecasis Rivers. A man on these skates could travel long distances in a relatively short period of time. From Saint John to Fredericton, by the way of the St John River, is a distance of about eighty miles. It was not uncommon for an able-bodied young man to skate this distance in a little under seven hours.[14]

Some of the skaters from the Saint John River area became world class speed skating champions, notably Hugh J. McCormick.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ [2]
  3. ^ [3]
  4. ^ [4]
  5. ^ "Introduction in English". Stockholm Ice Skate Sailing and Touring Club. Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  6. ^ (Finnish)
  7. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  8. ^ "Långfärdsskridskoklubbar". Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  9. ^ Touring and Marathon Skating from Virtual Skate Museum
  10. ^ Grootveld, Johan. "Outdoor Ice Tales". Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  11. ^ "Man skates down Lachine Canal in bid to create skateway | OpenFile". 2012-02-23. Retrieved 2013-01-31. 
  12. ^ "Nordic Skating: Rivière L'Assomption, Joliette, Québec". Retrieved 8 Dec 2012. 
  13. ^ "Toby Creek Nordic Ski Club: Lake Windermere Whiteway". Retrieved 8 Dec 2012. 
  14. ^ Flood, Brian (1985). Saint John: A Sporting Tradition 1785-1985. p. 27. ISBN 0969221800. 

External links[edit]

Photo albums of tour skating[edit]

Videos of tour skating[edit]