Also found in: Wikipedia.


Type of Holiday: Sporting
Date of Observation: First Sunday in March
Where Celebrated: Between Mora and Sälen, Sweden
Symbols and Customs: Blueberry Soup, Children's Races, Ladies' Race, Vasaloppet's Museum


The idea for what is now the world's largest cross-country ski race came from a Swedish newspaper editor named Anders Pers. He wanted an event that would commemorate the heroic effort of Gustav Eriksson Vasa, a young Swede who tried to persuade his countrymen to revolt against their Danish rulers in the sixteenth century and was imprisoned in Denmark for his efforts. When he escaped from prison in 1520, he headed north to Mora, where he hoped to find some men who would join his revolt. Unfortunately, the men of Mora were not interested, and, in order to avoid being recaptured by the Danes, Vasa headed off on his skis for Norway. Soon after he left, the men of Mora reconsidered and decided Vasa was right. They sent their two fastest skiers to catch up with him, which they managed to do in Sälen. The three men then skied back to Mora-a distance of more than ninety kilometers (about fifty-five miles)-and organized an army that waged a two-anda-half-year battle against the ruling Danes. When it was all over in 1523, Gustav Erkisson Vasa became a national hero and king of Sweden.

Pers wanted a cross-country ski race that would test the competitors' endurance, just as that of Vasa and his companions had been tested in the sixteenth century. The first Vasaloppet, as the race was called, took place on March 19, 1922, with the starting line in Sälen and the finish line in Mora. It took the winner more than seven-and-a-half hours to complete the race, and he received his trophy while standing in front of Vasa's monument. The Vasaloppet went on to become one of the world's most demanding cross-country races, ranking in prestige with the Winter Olympics. A wide variety of skiers compete during Vasaloppet week, including young children, recreational skiers, and elite ski racers. More than 15,000 skiers from more than thirty countries compete in the main race, which is held on the first Sunday in March, and 3,000 volunteers are needed to run the food stations, which are located along the course at approximately ten-kilometer intervals (see BLUEBERRY SOUP ). In addition to the ninety-kilometer race, there is a thirty-kilometer coed recreational race known as the Kort Vasan, a CHILDREN ' S RACE , and a LADIES ' RACE . The Öppet Spär is a two-day race over the regular 90-kilometer course that allows skiers to cover the same distance without the pressure of competition. There is also a Halv Vasan, introduced in 1997, that covers only half the Vasaloppet course, and a Skejt Vasan for cross-country skiers who use the now-popular "skating" technique. The time it takes the winner to complete the race has been cut in half since the 1920s, with the current record (set in 1998) standing at three hours, thirty-eight minutes, fifty-seven seconds.

Perhaps no name is more closely associated with the race than that of Nils Karlsson, who has won the Vasaloppet nine times. It was 1954 before a foreigner, Pekka Kuvaja of Finland, won the Vasaloppet, and then another seventeen years elapsed before a Norwegian won the race. Since that time there have been a number of foreign victors, but there is no question that the Swedes have dominated the race over its eighty-year history. Perhaps this is why the motto over the finish gate says, "In the footsteps of our fathers towards the victories of the future."


Blueberry Soup

Blueberry soup is a traditional Swedish dish that has become closely identified with the Vasaloppet. It is a standard offering at the race's food stations, although not all foreign competitors enjoy the taste. Blueberries are high in vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and other minerals, and they are a good source of antioxidants, which help the body fight cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and the effects of aging. The skiers who compete in the Vasaloppet consume an impressive quantity of blueberry soup, as well as other food and drink, during the race: 128,320 litres (almost 33,900 gallons) of blueberry soup, 55,000 litres of porridge, 1,000 litres of gruel, 103,500 Vasaloppet buns, 54,600 litres of sport drinks, 12,500 litres of bouillon, and 5,220 litres of coffee.

Children's Races

The Vasaloppet has spawned a number of related events over the years. Since the mid-1980s many Swedish towns have organized their own "miniature Vasaloppet" ski races for children in nursery and elementary school. The course is usually 900 meters long and food stations are set up to serve the children BLUEBERRY SOUP and all of the other Vasaloppet favorites.

Ladies' Race

Although a woman successfully completed the Vasaloppet as early as 1923, it was 1981 before women were allowed to compete in the race officially. A separate women's competition, known as the Tjej Vasan, was introduced in 1988 over a thirty-kilometer course that runs from Oxberg to Mora-the same course, in fact, used in the recreational Kort Vasan. Eight thousand women are allowed to enter the Tjej Vasan, making it the largest all-female skiing competition in the world. But the Vasaloppet itself remains a test of male endurance: Just as American men may celebrate a "big" birthday by running a marathon, Swedish men frequently celebrate their fiftieth birthday by entering the Vasaloppet.

Vasaloppet's Museum

A museum honoring the history of the Vasaloppet opened in 1994 in Mora. Its displays include skis, sticks (poles), photographs, texts, and articles about the race. Its cinema shows films that discuss past challenges, modern-day skiing, and future development plans for the Vasaloppet. There are computers with race statistics and special exhibits honoring both female and male champions. The museum attracts around 15,000 visitors every year.


Van Straalen, Alice. The Book of Holidays Around the World. New York: Dutton, 1986.


Vasaloppet Official Web Site
Holiday Symbols and Customs, 4th ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2009


Late February to first Sunday in March
The biggest cross-country ski race in the world takes place in Sweden on the first Sunday in March each year. The course begins on the border between Norway and Sweden, in a huge frozen field outside the village of Sälen, and ends 54 miles away in the Swedish town of Mora. The race was named for a young Swedish nobleman, Gustav Vasa, who persuaded the people of Mora to help him drive out the Danes in 1520. He later ruled the country for almost 40 years as King Gustavus I.
More than 8,000 men compete in the annual race, which for even the strongest skier takes over five hours to complete. Because they consider this to be a test of their manhood, many Swedish men celebrate their 50th birthdays by entering the race. More than 325,000 have officially completed the Vasaloppet since the race became a national ski festival in 1922. Numerous other ski events take place over the last week in February leading up to the main Vasaloppet race.
Vasaloppet Mora
Vasaloppets Hus
Mora, Kopparberg Province SE-792 32 Sweden
46-250-392-00; fax: 46-250-392-50
BkHolWrld-1986, Mar 7
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.
Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
Researchers in Sweden looked at men and women who completed one or more races in the 30- to 90-kilometer cross-country skiing event called Vasaloppet from 1989 through 2011, comparing them to a group of non-skiers.
These athletes were participating in three large Swedish endurance competitions open to the public, which included three different endurance sports: cross-country running (CCR) Lidingoloppet, cross-country skiing (CCS) Vasaloppet, and open-water swimming (OWS) Vansbrosimningen.
Swedish citizens of 18 years or older registered for participation in any of the three public endurance competitions (CCR Lidingoloppet in 2014; CCS Vasaloppet and OWS Vansbrosimningen in 2015) and with an e-mail address were eligible for inclusion (Table 1).
Mora, MN, October 22, 2017 --( Vasaloppet USA race officials have decided to prepare two ski courses, depending on snow conditions, for future races.
Assarsson, "The influence of sex, age, and race experience on pacing profiles during the 90 km Vasaloppet ski race," Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, vol.
Kate's younger sister, 28, finished the gruelling Vasaloppet event in Mora, Sweden, in seven hours and 13 minutes.
London, Mar 5 ( ANI ): Pippa Middleton, who participated in the annual Vasaloppet ski race to raise money for a children's charity, was kissed by a man moments after crossing the finish line.
In Sweden, too, the long-distance skiing event Vasaloppet is seen by many as a Swedish ritual of manhood.
Worldloppet is an Anglicized version of the Swedish term Vasaloppet, which translates roughly as "world ski tour." The Worldloppet Ski Federation was founded in Sweden in 1978 to promote the sport of cross-country skiing.
The Duchess of Cambridge's younger siblings will be among more than 15,000 skiers taking part in the Vasaloppet, a 56-mile ski marathon across Swedish mountains.