Today, the world’s longest cross country ski race takes place in the county of Darlana in Sweden. Called Vasaloppet, it entails participants skiing 90 kilometers from start to finish. It’s an extremely popular race, which can take up to 12 hours to complete, and which is broadcast live on tv. When tickets to participate are released, they sell out in 15 minutes – it’s that popular.
The first Vasalopp was in 1922 and takes place annually, the first Sunday in March. It’s an amazing sight to watch, as more than 15000 mad skiers glide along, the swishing sound of ski on snow filling the air. The person who has completed the race fastest is Jörgen Brink, who in 2012 won the race in just over 3 hours 40 minutes.
So why is this race called the Vasalopp? Well, it is to commemorate the escape to Norway through Darlana of King Gustav Vasa in 1521. Legend has it that he skied, but experts believe he more likely completed this escape on snow shoes.
Modern day skiers don’t see the experience as an escape, they see it as a challenge and a rite of passage.
And as you sit watching the TV comfortably from the sofa, with tea and toast, you take vicarious pride in their crazy achievement.