Nearly 500 years since Gustav Vasa first skied the route, Vasaloppet 2016 was raced on March 6 by 15,800 people and decided in one of the largest, most exciting group spurts in Vasaloppet history. Norwegian John Kristian Dahl won his second victory ahead of his compatriot Stian Hoelgaard; and Austrian Katerina Smutná won the ladies' class two seconds ahead of Norwegian Britta Johansson Norgren. Due to fresh snow in the tracks, this year’s cross-country ski race became a group effort where the elite female skiers stayed ahead with the lead group for a very long time. Unfortunately they were disrupted by male skiers on the final stretch and didn’t get open tracks as the Vasaloppet organization had planned. It is a fairly new phenomenon to have so many female skiers: This is only the third year that as many as 14 percent (a little over 2000) of the skiers were female.

The historic 90-kilometer (56 miles) race from Sälen to Mora, Sweden, is one of the world's oldest and longest cross-country races and is based on Gustav Vasa's attempt to gather peasants in a revolt against occupying Danes in 1522. Vasa fled after failing to gain support, but the Mora locals changed their minds and sent their best skiers to bring him back. He returned to lead the Swedes to independence, and was later proclaimed King Gustav Vasa.

As the Vasaloppet, the race was first run in 1922 and is always held on the first Sunday of March. Vasaloppet 2017 will be open for registration on March 20; if it’s like recent years, the 15,800 skier limit will be reached in less than two minutes. (About 3,800 of the registered participants come from nations other than Sweden; this year there was a record 55 nations represented during Vasaloppet Winter Week). Register or get more information in Swedish or English:

Vasaloppet/Nisse Schmidt (close)
Vasaloppet/Ulf Palm