The traditional Vasaloppet in Sweden - this year on Sunday, March 6 - is a huge event with over 15,000 skiers (Counting all races during the week-long event, beginning Feb. 27, it's closer to 70,000). The race in Sweden is so popular, it was even considered as a new national holiday some years ago: Vasaloppet, a better national holiday?

Close to a thousand ski Vasaloppet, Minnesota
No snow? With a little magic, the Mora, Minnesota Vasaloppet was a success.

It was a cold -6 degrees when some participants started the Vasaloppet ski race in Mora, MN on February 13. The day was very bright and clear as skiers set out on Lake Mora, with a canon giving the start signal. From that point on the bells in the Swedish bell tower rang continuously until all the racers had crossed the finish line in downtown Mora.

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Plagued by a winter with little snow, the Vasaloppet planners made the decision to create a 10k loop as a circuit race, which included part of Lake Mora. This still meant that snow had to be hauled in — from somewhere — to cover low spots, and to create a suitable trail for skiing.

Since the past few years have been low on snow, the planners have explored other options. They decided a snowmaking machine could help them in the lean snow years, and in September they went about the process of checking on water resources, which involved permits and licenses within the jurisdiction of Mora and Kanabec County. A snow gun meant they would need a water source, and the committee thought the one in close proximity to the Nordic Ski Center would be the perfect fit. Other government agencies, however, had rules and statutes, which determined the feasibility of this. In the end, the group had to dig its own pond in an approved location and purchase 1000 feet of fire hose to run from the water source to the location where a snowmaking machine would be most useful.

After agreements were signed, a major benefactor of the ski event helped in the purchase of a snow gun from Switzerland. It was ordered in plenty of time, however some paperwork was not done correctly on the seller’s end, and it languished in some unknown location in Italy for more than a month. Many phone calls by the persistent Minnesota purchasers tried to track it down and finally found it. Then the correct paperwork had to be completed so it could be released for further transit. It took a very long time but the snow gun finally arrived three weeks prior to the Mora Vasaloppet, and crews of volunteers made snow around the clock up until race day.

Their new race track included a pass by the Nordic Center, some wooded and hilly areas outside town, a tour around Lake Mora, and finally a climb up the Swedish Bell Tower Hill onto Mora’s Main Street. Racers completed one, three or four loops, depending on which event they participated in. All races were shortened from the standard 13K, 35K, 42K and 58K.

Participating in the many events were 22 Swedes, 11 of whom were veteraner — veterans from the Mora, Sweden Vasalopp. About 800 registrations were taken for the various races. Based on the convivial conversations in the downtown Celebration Tent, everyone had a good experience. Board member Terry Salmela said it was like pulling a rabbit out of a hat; he relayed that when folks saw the brown areas surrounding the trails, they understood what kind of magic had been in play to make the event possible. He was very pleased with all the publicity generated by the Twin Cities WCCO TV, which sent broadcasters and television crews to Mora for several days. On the night before race day, they positioned their evening news with the backdrop of volunteers filling Main Street with truckloads of snow, and then grooming both classic and skate ski trails.

Other activities of the weekend included the first annual fat bike race and tour, the second annual skijoring event, spark sled team relays, an art show, the Vasa Trail Companion (a live radio show with local characters), a pancake breakfast, a couple nights of dancing in the downtown heated tent and a celebration supper. The weekend came to a conclusion with skiers of all ages participating in the Mini-loppet on Sunday afternoon.

By Valorie Arrowsmith

Facts and trivia about Vasaloppet and a report from the races in 2015: ..fully booked in one and a half minutes when registration opened... For more info on this year's races and events in Sweden, see www.vasaloppet.se/en/ For information on next year's Minnesota race, see Vasaloppet USA (Similar races are held in Canada, China and Japan.)

Race results, Vasaloppet, Mora Minnesota 2016:
(no results from the Skijoring)
13K
Male: Daniel Mathews, age 18, Coon Rapids, MN. 27:14.94
Female: Olivia Jacobson, age 15, Shakopee, MN. 32:16.84

35K
Male: Nathan Porath, age 33, Northfield, MN. 1:16:53.18
Female: Ashley Herman, age 19, Duluth, MN. 1:26:38.05

42K Classic
Male: Karl Holus, age 22, Minneapolis, MN. 1:53:44.43
Female: Josie Nilsson, age 37, Medicine Lake, MN. 2:10:35.62

58K
Male: Matt Liebsch, age 32, Orono, MN. 1:52:04.21
Female: Natalja Naryshkina, age 31, Verona, WI, 2:10:30.79

Fat Tire
Male: Adam Bergman, age 35, Lino Lakes, MN. 1:22:05.75
Female: Kyia Anderson, age 39, St. Cloud, MN. 1:33:43.77