The tour, almost 200 km in length, is conducted on frozen canals, rivers and lakes between eleven Frisian cities: Leeuwarden, Sneek, IJlst[?] (mun. Wymbritseradiel), Sloten[?] (mun. Gaasterlân-Sleat), Stavoren[?], Hindeloopen[?] and Workum[?], (all mun. Nijefurd), Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker[?] (mun. Franekeradeel), Dokkum[?] (mun. Dongeradeel) and finally again Leeuwarden. The tour is not held each year, mostly due to the fact that the Dutch winters do not permit skating on natural ice each year. Adding to that, the tour currently features about 15,000 amateur skaters taking part, putting high requirements on the quality of the ice. There is a stated regulatory requirement for the race to take place that the ice must be (and remain at) a minimum thickness of 15 centimetres along the entirety of the course.
There are likely to be points along the route where the ice is too thin to allow mass skating, or where there is some other problem (e.g., there is actually an organisation "Committee Elfsteden Nee" that is opposed to the race and sabotaged the route 1997 by laying salt on the ice at one place). These are called "kluning points" (from Frisian language klunen) and the skaters walk on their skates to the next stretch of good ice.
The Elfstedentocht was already part of Frisian tradition, when in 1890, Pim Mulier[?] conceived the idea of an organised tour, which was first held in 1909. After this race, the Stichting Friese Elf Steden was established to take care of the organisation.
Since 1909, the tour has been held 15 times. The often cold weather and harsh conditions have helped to make the race a major event in the Netherlands, where many will travel to Friesland to see the tour or watch the competition skaters on television. After the competition skaters, some 15,000 amateur skaters will also attempt to complete the race.
The time taken for the winner to complete the course is given in hours and minutes.
(*) After shared wins in 1933 and 1940, this had been forbidden by the organisation. Jan van der Hoorn, Aad de Koning[?], Jeen Nauta[?], Maus Wijnhout[?] and Anton Verhoeven[?] did however ignore this rule when they were the first to cross the finish line. They were disqualified, and no winner was declared.
Women were allowed to take part in the race from 1985 (before that they could only ride with the amateurs), but no award has been given; that will be the case at the next edition. The women to cross the finish line first were: