FIS logo

A Swedish classic with a history

Hero image

On 19 March 1922, the vision of journalist Anders Pers came true when the first “Vasaloppet” from Sälen to Mora celebrated its premiere. The race – which sees competitors battle it out over 90 kilometres in classic cross-country technique – was conceived to commemorate the escape of Gustav Eriksson Vasa, later King Gustav I. Vasa, from Danish soldiers in 1520. Today, the Vasaloppet is the most famous cross-country skiing event in the world and an essential part of the Worldloppet series, also founded in Sweden in 1978 and which comprises 20 races across Europe, America, Asia and Australia.


It is not known whether Ernst Alm thought about the story of the escape in the icy cold when he lined up at the start in Sälen early that morning in 1922 with 118 other athletes. Alm fought his way up the first climb and on through the Swedish pine forests, over hills and past frozen lakes and farms until he arrived in the now legendary finish lane in Mora after 7 hours, 32 minutes and 49 seconds. A classic was born, with one small ‘flaw’: Gustav Vasa fled from Mora to Sälen, but for organisational reasons the organisers reversed the start and finish; to this day, the race is still run like this on the first Sunday in March.


The number of participants has grown to 15,000 cross-country skiers, while the winning time has dropped to just over 3 hours. And one thing is sure: if the winner of the Vasaloppet is a Swede, they will be celebrated as a national hero.