Gustav Vasa ( 1496 - 1560 )

Anders Pers, a newspaper editor proposed on the 10th of February 1922 a cross country ski race to enshrine the memory of Gustav Eriksson Vasa's revolt against the Danish tyrant King Kristian 400 years earlier. It was meant to be an endurance test similar to the journey made by Gustav Vasa, Lars and Engelbrekt between Mora and Salen.

On the 5th of March 1922 after numerous board meetings IFK Mora decided unanimously to arrange the first Vasaloppet. A national newspaper donated 1 000 SEK and Vasaloppet was born.

Vasaloppet's historical background reaches as far back as the 16th century. The Swedish people were tired of the Danish regime led by the merciless King Kristian the second. A young Swede by the name of Gustav Eriksson Vasa tried to organize a revolt but was captured by the Danes and jailed in Denmark. He eventually escaped and landed in Kalmar in the spring of 1520. It was here he began his long and dangerous journey north through Smaland and Ostergotland towards Dalarna.

Again he tried to organize a revolt but the farmers and villagers were only interested in peace. His last hope was the tough and resolute men of Dalarna, but to his disappointment the men of Dalecarlia were not prepared to fight. With the Danes in close pursuit Gustav Vasa could wait no longer and to avoid being recaptured he took to his skis and continued his journey north west towards Norway. The Dalecarlia men now had second thoughts and they decided to support Gustav Vasa. Lars and Engelbrekt, their two fastest skiers took up the pursuit and caught up with Gustav Vasa in S?len. The three men then returned to Mora. The battle against northern Europe’s most powerful nation then began and it lasted for two and a half years. Gustav Eriksson Vasa was proclaimed King of Sweden on the 6th of June 1523.

The first Vasaloppet was run on the 19th of March 1922. Most of the 136 participants travelled to Limedsforsen by special train from where they continued their journey Friday evening by sledge to Salen. On Saturday, the day before the race activities included ski waxing and filming. The Swedish Film Institute was present to preserve this historic occasion. On Sunday morning, at 06.04 am with a temperature at -2 degrees C the race got under way on a track covered in light snow. About 100 spectators were present. The leaders arrived in M?ngsbodarna at 08.15 and after a short break they continued their journey towards Evertsberg. Conditions deteriorated and new snow easily fastened under their skis. No skier wanted to lead the race. When arriving in Evertsberg at 10.15 most competitors took the opportunity to eat, drink and rewax their skis. The snow continued to fall and the leaders arrived in Oxberg at 11.20. Thousands of spectators congregated at the finish in Mora in good time to see 21 year old Ernst Alm win the first Vasaloppet. He defeated his team mate Oskar Lindberg by over five minutes in winning time of 7 hrs. 32 mins 46 sec. The best placed skier from Dalarna was Axel Israelsson in third place. Only two competitors failed to complete the course and the last man finished in a time of 14 hrs. 11. mins. A service was held in Mora Church and trophies were presented in front of the Gustav Vasa statue.

A victory in Vasaloppet is regarded by most of the world’s best skiers as highly as a podium place in the Olympic Games or the World Championships. Nils “Mora Nisse” Karlsson, IFK Mora, has won the race a record nine times and this feat is now considered almost unbeatable. He is closely followed by Janne Stefansson, Salens IF, with seven wins. Artur Hoggblad, IFK Umea, dominated Vasaloppet in the 1930s with his four wins as did Jan Ottosson, Asarnas IK, in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Those who have won the race on more than one occasion include Lars-Arne Bolling, IFK Mora, and Bengt Hassis, Orsa IF.

The first overseas victor was Pekka Kuvaja of Finland in 1954 and then the Swedes again dominated the race up to 1971 when Ole Ellefsaeter, Norway, won and is still, surprisingly the only Norwegian victor. Other overseas winners have come from Austria, France, East Germany, Switzerland and the former Sovjet Union.

The Ladies Competition

Apart from 1923 when Margit Nordin completed the course in more than ten hours females were first allowed to compete officially in 1981. The first TjejVasan was run in 1988 when almost 2 000 competitors completed the course between Oxberg and Mora. The race has since grown in stature and now a maximum of 7 500 skiers are permitted to compete. A total of 20 000 females (and maybe some males in disguise) have completed the course since 1988. Anna Fritiof, Kvarnsvedens GOIF, and Helen “Billan” Westin, Hudiksvall, have both won the race on two occasions.

Tourists

Vasaloppet is probably the most famous and popular sporting event in Sweden and attracts tourists from all over the country and from all around the world to Mora and Salen each year. Vasaloppet’s Museum in Mora was inaugarated in 1994 and Vasaloppet’s House at the start in Salen was opened in 1996.

Vasaleden (Hiking Course)

The Vasaleden was inaugarated in 1991. This enables hikers to walk the famous Vasaloppet Course during the summer months. The course is marked with orange circles on poles and trees. A portrait of Gustav Vasa is also branded on the poles. There are five chalets along the course where hikers can spend the night and this service is free of charge. Information about sightseeing is also available. Maps and a commemorative pin can be purchased in Salen and Mora.

For more info about this event visit Vasaloppet Official Site at http://www.vasaloppet.se