Mora, Minnesota—The temperature was cold at the start of the 42nd annual Mora Vasaloppet ski race, but some cross-country skiers said it was the best track ever, as smooth as ice in some places, with the wind at their backs, and a good fast time for many of the more than 1,300 participants.
They began near Warman, MN, about 17 miles north of Mora, and wended their way through woods and dales, across farm land, up and down hills, and over some frozen lakes. There were blueberry soup stops and bell ringers along the trail, each providing nourishment and encouragement.
Awaiting them near the finish line in downtown Mora was the Swedish bell tower, then a final last climb up a hill, before each skier arrived on the snow-paved Main Street in the heart of the downtown. Flags, banners and buntings danced in the brisk wind. An enthusiastic announcer welcomed skiers by name as they rounded the final turn, and the Kranskullor, or Kranskullas as they say in Minnesota, bestowed on each neck a medal signifying race completion.
Next stop, the heated hospitality tent where skiers were announced by race number so volunteers could find backpacks containing fresh clothes. It was a time to redistribute heat from torso to colder extremities, and visit with other skiers about race conditions before moving on to the high school for a warming chili lunch and more time to connect with fellow racers.
The awards ceremony was the final stop for participants, but not for the Vasaloppet board and supporters, who would go on to a celebration dinner in the evening for a debrief, recap and celebration of another well-produced event.

Gustav Vasa himself on stage
Despite having just skied 13, 35, 42 or 58 kilometers, winners bounded to the stage to enjoy the glory of their win in each age class. The current, recent-past, and future kranskullas congratulated each winner with a Dala horse and a firm handshake. “King Gustav Vasa” facilitated the photo documentation of winners as they stood on their first, second or third place podiums, and the Spirit River Scandiband provided Swedish folk and dance tunes.
Other events during Vasaloppet weekend included ice skating, music and dance in the hospitality tent, snow sculptures by Keith Raivo at the Vasaloppet Center, an art show, pancake breakfast, spaghetti supper, the annual “Vasa Trail Companion” at the Paradise Theater and a live radio show broadcast on WCMP Red Rock Radio, with similarities to the “Prairie Home Companion.” During this event, sponsored by First Light Health Systems, there were sound effects, “On the Air” and “Applause” signs, and a competition in which the stage band solicited ideas for a new name from the audience, which was then voted for by applause; the band will now be called the “Snow Jobs.”
In part of the show the Vasa Trail actors and the band took the audience back to the featured year of 1978 and reviewed the fashions, music, film, sports and world news from that era; a “random Swede” was selected from a vast database and called to the stage. In this case it was Håkan Mossberg, of Kopparberg, Sweden, head of the Swedish Veteraners group, who gave an update on ski conditions in Sweden—no snow until very recently, and 20 degrees Celsius.


Race scheduled for Valentine's in 2015
A major change will occur for the 2015 Vasaloppet. It will be held on Saturday, February 14, instead of on Sunday to accommodate more skiers who have indicated a Saturday preference for the race.
With the race clock at the finish line still ticking into the sixth hour, the weekend concluded with volunteer crews removing snow from Main Street Mora. The community thinks about Vasaloppet year round, as evidenced by its weekly early morning meetings; but for this race weekend, they can wrap it up with a final party to celebrate the success of all the heart-felt volunteer hours that helped create the “coolest race in the warmest place.”

Men and Women 1st place winners
35K with 422 skiers
Nathan Porath of Northfield, MN, 1:23:30
Elaine Nelson of Duluth, MN, 1:33:19

42K with 296 skiers
David Chamberlain of Boulder, CO, 2:02:41
Hillary Patzer of St. Paul, 2:24:18

58K with 265 skiers
Matt Liebsch of Orono, MN, 2:21:08
Natalja Naryshkina of Verona, WI, 2:43: 08

13K with 277 skiers
Tanner Wetzel of Maple Grove, MN. 33:57
Alyson Welch of Rochester, MN, 39:10

8 teams in the Teamloppet
About a dozen skiers came from countries outside the U.S.
1,307 individual skiers including members of eight relay teams in the Teamloppet.

By Valorie Arrowsmith
Photography: V.S. Arrowsmith

Photo cut lines.
The 2013 Ms. Svenskarnasdag Shannon Pulcher from Cambridge, worked at the finish line of the 42nd Mora Vasaloppet, and honored all skiers with a medal fastened to a brightly colored ribbon. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

Elaine Nelson of Duluth, MN, visited with fellow skiers in the hospitality tent, after her win of the 35K race. Her time was 1:33:19. Winner of the men’s race was Nathan Porath of Northfield, MN with a time of 1:23:30. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

As each skier entered the hospitality tent, their numbers were called to volunteers in the “baggage claim area.” This sped up the sorting and delivery process and participants received all of their pre-race gear with a wait of only a few seconds. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

Håkan Mossberg, of Kopparberg, Sweden and head of the Swedish Veteraners group, shed his wet ski clothing after reaching the finish line of the Mora Vasaloppet ski race on February 9. This was his seventh trip to the Mora Minnesota Vasaloppet. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

Contrasts in means of travel were evident on the street by the Mora Vasaloppet Headquarters building. One can safely assume these were not the skis of the race winners during the event this year. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

The Vasaloppet board says, “We give out more medals than the Olympics … everyone who is here gets a medal.” Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

Bill Oyler of Minneapolis sported some frosty facial decorations. His eyelashes and eyebrows were completely covered with ice after skiing the 58K Vasaloppet ski race in Mora in February. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

Eric Raivo of Mora, completed the Mora Classic, a four-event competition, when he crossed the finish line at the Vasaloppet in February. Upcoming events are the canoe race on May 3, the half marathon on August 16, the bicycle race on September 20, and next year’s Vasaloppet on Valentine’s Day, February 14. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

Bruce Bostrom of St. Paul and Christine Thone of Shakopee, MN celebrated the completion of a good race. Bostrom had evidence of blueberry soup in his beard. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

“Gustav Vasa” far right, and three kranskullas were ready at the stage for the awards ceremony. They delivered individual Dala horses to the first three winners in each age and race category, and facilitated the photo documentation for each set of winners. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

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The Spirit River Scandiband returned to the Vasaloppet Awards Ceremony for the second year to provide music leading up to the award recognitions. In the background is a stage full of Dala horses waiting to be awarded, display in front of a field of flags. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

There are classes for each age group in the ski races at the Mora Vasaloppet. Here the top three finishers in the 35K, whose age class is 65 to 69, posed for their award photograph. There were 422 skiers in this race. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

Maud Mossberg of Kopparberg, Sweden, took first place in Class 10, ages 65-69 in the 42K Classic Vasaloppet Ski Race. During the post-race chili feed, she claimed it had not been a good race for her, that she could not get any kick or glide. It seems she did well in her class, despite her own assessment of the race. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

Winners of the 58K race in Mora, MN were Matt Liebsch of Orono, MN at 2:21:08.1, and Natalja Naryshkina of Verona, WI at 2:42:08.5. They received a free trip to the Mora Sweden Vasaloppet, or a $1000 prize. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

The race clock is still ticking after six hours, while the clean-up crew begins to remove the packed snow from Main Street in downtown Mora, MN at the conclusion of the 42nd annual Vasaloppet Ski Race. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

Clean-up crews have a system for quick removal of masses of snow from Main Street in downtown Mora after the Vasaloppet Ski Race. It’s a combination of blue tarp, shovels, a back hoe and heavy equipment to haul away the snow. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

Local artist Keith Raivo carved some snow sculptures in front of the Vasaloppet Headquarters in downtown Mora. In the background is a stone carving Raivo designed in 2013, which has runic inscriptions on it. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.

The kranskulla and other stone carvings had additional company this year, with two snow sculputres by Keith Raivo of Brook Park, MN. They graced the area in front of the Vasaloppet Headquarters in Mora. Photo by V.S. Arrowsmith.