Ice-skating on the River Doubs


Category:
Social practices
  • Knowledge concerning nature
Canton:

Description

From time to time in deepest winter, the River Doubs, which is the natural boundary between the Swiss and French Jura mountain ranges, is transformed into one long frozen skating track. Although the river offers a small surface when compared with the large lakes nearby, the Doubs is the largest natural ice-skating rink in Europe. The length of the ‘season’ depends on the weather conditions, but generally is as short as one day or as long as 30 days. However, these times are unofficial, as the local authorities accept no liability for any accidents that occur. Ultimately ice-skating on the River Doubs is an entirely impromptu pursuit and a matter of personal responsibility. The quality of the ice is tested using an age-old technique, which consists in finding a stone of a certain size on the spot and lobbing it onto the ice with a very precise trajectory. The sound emitted on its impact indicates how solid the ice is. As soon as the tests are conclusive, the locals get their skates on to enjoy the perfectly smooth ice. However, they are quickly joined by skating and sliding enthusiasts from other parts of Switzerland and from France. Hundreds, even thousands of tourists flock to the Doubs to enjoy the gigantic frozen mirror that first snakes its way across the plain, then dives into the heart of deep gorges dotted with caves and impressive boulders. From Brenets (CH) and Chaillexon (F) to Saut-du-Doubs to Chaillexon, it becomes a giant outdoor playground with stands and refreshment stalls, and is an integral part of the local identity. The border fades to make way for an extended cross-border community.

Image gallery

  • A peddler selling his wares to skaters (1930-1950) © Fernand Perret/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fond
  • Skating on the River Doubs (1930-1950) © Fernand Perret/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fond
  • Ice-hockey players (1930-1950) © Fernand Perret/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fond
  • Peddlers setting up shop on the frozen Doubs (1930-1950) © Fernand Perret/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fond
  • Surrounding landscape and skaters (1930-1950) © Fernand Perret/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fond
  • A peddler selling his wares to skaters (1930-1950) © Fernand Perret/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fond
  • Skating on the River Doubs (1930-1950) © Fernand Perret/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fond
  • Ice-hockey players (1930-1950) © Fernand Perret/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fond
  • Peddlers setting up shop on the frozen Doubs (1930-1950) © Fernand Perret/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fond
  • Surrounding landscape and skaters (1930-1950) © Fernand Perret/Département audiovisuel de la Bibliothèque de la Ville de La Chaux-de-Fond

References and documentation

Publications
  • Dame météo préfère le vert. In : L’Impartial. La Chaux-de-Fonds, 29 décembre 2006

  • Le Doups, sans glisse. In : L’Impartial. La Chaux-de-Fonds, 31 décembre 2005

  • Le Haut-Jura neuchâtelois s’offre généreusement aux joies saines et ensoleillées du tourisme de famille. In : L’Impartial. La Chaux-de-Fonds, 29 décembre 1975

Documentation