Skiing Surges in Flat Netherlands

Skiing Surges in Flat Netherlands
Skiing Surges in Flat Netherlands

With temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius in the Dutch countryside just outside the Hague, many are pulling on their skiing gear and heading to one of the flat country's many artificial slopes, as the sport gains popularity.

A country mainly known for its speed skaters, the Royal Dutch Ski Federation is aiming to make skiing a "top sport."

This is not some Alpine ski station but a huge hangar on stilts just off the motorway in Zoetermeer, in the west of the Netherlands -- one of the flattest countries on earth with a highest peak of 322 meters.

Despite outdoor temperatures of more than 20 degrees on the May day the SnowWorld indoor ski slope, many Dutch were happy to ditch the nearby beach for ski goggles and helmets.

Well-known for producing world-class speed skaters, the Dutch are also huge fans of skiing despite a cruel dearth of natural slopes.

No other country boasts as many indoor ski centers per capita -- seven facilities for 18 million -- according to Herbert Cool, spokesman for the Dutch Skiing Federation.

The Netherlands also offers more than 15 artificial ski slopes and 60 ski carpets to work on technique, he added.

And Cool hopes the return to competition of Austrian downhill ski legend Marcel Hirscher in the Dutch colors of his mother will only turbo-charge the sport's popularity.

"Winter sports are very popular here. 1.1 million Dutch head to the Alps every year," Cool said.

"It's part of Dutch culture to go to the snow at least one week a year. It's fun and we don't mind traveling a bit to have fun," he added.

When the federation first heard that Hirscher, who has won multiple Olympic and World Championship golds, planned to race under the Dutch flag, they thought it was a joke.

But when it was confirmed, they realized what a gift they had been given.