Norwegian Jörgen Auckland won the prestigious Vasaloppet today. Vasaloppet is a 90 kilometre skiing competition from Sälen to Mora in the Swedish district of Dalarna. The competition has old historical roots and is one of the longest skiing competitions in the world.
Gustav Vasa, the father of Vasaloppet. Swedish king 1521-1560. (photo: Wikipedia communs)
The first “Vasaloppet” was already in 1521. The nobleman Gustav Eriksson Vasa fled from the Danish knights towards the Norwegian border. Sweden and Denmark was in a union under a Danish king; something that was not appreciated among the Swedish upper class. Many of them hade been executed in the Stockholm Bloodbath in November 1520 when Kristain II (in Sweden referred to as Christian tyrant and in Denmark as Christian the Great) was crowned king of the whole union.
Gusatv Vasa tried to organise an uprising among the local residents in Dalarna, at the time with no success. He then fled on skies the 90 kilometres which is today Vasaloppet. (Gustav Vasa was later that year to become king of Sweden; a position he held until his death 39 years later, but that is another story).
In 1922, a time when patriotism was popular, it was seen as important to celebrate historical events of importance for the country’s history. After a private initiative the first competition was held in March the same year. Since then Vasaloppet is held the first Sunday in March every year. It has only been cancelled three times due to lack of snow. The competition attracts the world skiing elite, as well as amateurs who just want to participate for the fun of it.
The goal area in Mora (photo: Wikipedia communs)
In the first Vasaloppet in 1922, 119 skiers started. This year it was 14 000. Around 1.8 million watched it on TV. The race is part of “A Swedish classic circuit”. To be able to say that you have accomplished the classic, you have to finish Vasaloppet, Vätterrundan (cycling), Lidingöloppet (cross country running) and Vansbrosimmningen (swimming).
Many of the starters in Vasaloppet do not reach the goal in Mora in time. There are several control stations along the track, each of them have to be passed in time. Otherwise there would probably be skiers out in the track to way after midnight.
Along the tracks, officials serve beverages to the skiers. Warm blueberry soup is very popular and much associated with this race. 55 000 litres of Ekström’s blue berry soup is consumed during the race and the days before when other, minor versions of Vasaloppet, are held.
Jörgen Auckland won this year after skiing the 90 kilometres on 4 hours, 13 minutes and 45 seconds, almost four minutes before his brother, Anders Auckland who won the silver medal. On third place came Jerry Ahrlin, Sweden. The best female was Sandra Hansson, Sweden.
Vasalopet is held the same day as the World cup race in Lahtis, a fact that prevent many world elite skiers from participating since they need to earn world cup points.