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On Sunday 3 March it’s once again time for the world’s biggest ski race – the 95th edition of Vasaloppet. For the thrill-seeking sports enthusiasts, few races can compete with this exhilarating ski race, which attracts competitors from across the globe. More than 15,000 skiers will ski the 90 km race, making it one of the longest cross-country ski races in the world.
It starts in Sälen at 08:00 and finish in Mora. Professionals tend to reach Mora in four hours, whereas amateurs can take twice as long meaning skiers arrive in Mora sometime between 11:40–20:30. The narrow trail through the forest has bee described by Sports Illustrated as being “peeled like a thin strip of apple skin from the black forest pines.”
It all started with Gustav Eriksson
Vasaloppet is a race that originates from Gustav Eriksson’s flight from the Danish king in 1521. At the time, Sweden was in a union with Denmark but there was great discontent with the Danish king. Gustav Eriksson was opposing the king, leading to his imprisonment in Denmark. After managing to escape, he began a long march in the spring of 1520 urging Swedish farmers and villagers to revolt agains the Danish authorities, but to no avail. He then set his hope to Dalarna, where the people were known to be tough and resolute and seldom giving way to decisions of authorities and kings.
The story goes that Gustav was hunted throughout Dalarna by the pursuing Danes, but the people sheltered and protected him from King Christian’s soldiers. In 1520, he spoke to a crowd in Mora in Dalarna only weeks after his father and brother together with some 80 other magnates had been beheaded in ‘the Stockholm bloodbath‘. In 1521, with the men from Dalarna at the head, Gustav began his battle to free Sweden from the Danes. Gustav Eriksson eventually united the realm and became Sweden’s first king – better known as Gustav Vasa. On 6 June 1523 at a national assembly in Strängnäs, he was elected King of Sweden.
It is Anders Pers from Mora who first came up with an idea of Vasaloppet. In 1922 he wrote an article in a local newspaper –Vestmanlands Läns Tidning – launching the idea of a Vasalopp and linking it to Gustav Eriksson Vasa’s flight on skis from Mora towards Norway in 1521. The first Vasaloppet was held in 1922 and 139 skiers had entered the race. Since then, more than 500,000 Vasaloppet skiers have completed the 90-kilometre long Vasaloppet race. Put together they have covered a distance equivalent of 64 journeys to the moon and back!