The idea of creating an artificial mountain in the Netherlands started out as a joke, but is now gaining ground.

Cyclist Thijs Zonneveld posted a comment on a Dutch news website, urging his countrymen to create their own mountain with ski slopes and villages.

Thijs Zonneveld told Reuters that the following day there was such a serious response from people who had actually been thinking about it and calculating stuff that it made him realise he was not the only one who'd had the idea. Thijs dreams of an artificial mountain five kilometres wide and up to two kilometres in height.

The altitude in the Netherlands rises to a maximum of 323 metres - little more than a hill - but this hasn't deterred Dutch engineering groups such as Oranjewoud and Bartels from meeting to consider the details.

Engineers told Reuters that they're not worried about the technicalities of building it, and there is more than enough space, but the biggest hurdles will be financing and environmental problems.

Estimates for the 200-metre artificial mountain range from a couple of billion euros up to 200 billion euros.

At present the Netherlands is home to six indoor ski centres: see Europe's indoor ski guide