News Articles

Eleven Cities race winner pushing 2004 skating marathon

Ice Fever hits Sylvan Lake again

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

SYLVAN LAKE, Alberta - The Spitz Sylvan Lake Ice Marathon for 2004 has been scheduled for February 26 and 28. The two-day event has a program of two tours and three tours/races, with a traditional 200-kilometres race capping the program on Saturday. One of the leading people behind the marathon is recent Dutch immigrant Evert van Bethem.

In 1985, Van Benthem became a household name in the Netherlands when he won the famed Elfstedentocht, a marathon speed skating race linking eleven cities in the province of Friesland. His country-wide fame became legendary when he repeated his feat the following year. The next (and last) time the race was held in 1997.

Now a new resident of the Red Deer, Alberta area, Van Benthem is one of the initiators of the regional marathon skating event. Together with a number of Dutch Canadian neighbours and other area speed skating enthusiasts, Van Benthem and the Foothills Speed Skating Marathon Association have been instrumental in bringing ‘Ice Fever’ to Alberta and to Sylvan Lake.

Trying to upgrade the annual Sylvan Lake tour event into a world class race such as the ones held in Europe (often billed as Alternative Eleven Cities races) proved to be a problem this year. Because of scheduling conflicts and commercial considerations, the marathon’s Dutch governing body initially did not sanction the 2004 Sylvan Lake Race. The case was resolved however, when it was agreed upon that the event envisioned for 2005 would be entered as an official ‘alternative race.’ That way, next year’s race in Alberta will see participation from most of the sponsored (Dutch) speed skaters now participating in the marathon cup events throughout the Netherlands and open air ‘alternatives’ in Austria and Finland.

It is expected that in the years to come one main open-air race event will alternate between Europe and Canada.

For more information on or registration for the 2004 tours and races, please check the Community Calendar in this paper or contact the Foothills Speed Skating Marathon Association at 403-886-2975. Their website is