Vasaloppet / Öppet Spår 2004
I have run the Öppet Spår twice, and both experiences were unforgettable.
Sunday 29th of February: my partners and I arrived at Sälen at around 6am in order to have a good starting place and enjoy a well prepared track before too many people have skied on it. At that time of the year it is usually very cold, the temperature reached -20°C at the start. To keep warm, we tried to jump, and do some gympa motion (the Swedish variant of aerobics), it was still very dark. A few minutes before the start, we bound our skis, strapped our poles to the most accurate position, and greeted each other good luck. 7:00, a new experience starts. 6,000 people intensively trained all year long started an amazing adventure. During the first meters, I was just thinking of skiing by the slower skiers that were in front of me, mistake! Better to take it easy. The first kilometer started with a very long, narrow and steep slope, everybody skied on each other’s skis, and it was tricky to pass by the others. In this mass of people, I could find any kind of skiers; some very fit 18 year old kids, some 75 year old grandpas who skied their 45th Vasaloppet, or a handicapped skier on sledges pushed on this steep part by a 2 m long Viking. Once this first stage accomplished, the track became wider, and I could definitely ski at my own rhythm. As the sun rose up, I could discover a magnificent landscape. We skied through the forest, on some icy lakes, passing by some wooden refuges. The first 20 km were the coldest of the race, the sun was not yet up, and we skied in some valleys where it is usually colder. I got known afterwards that we had some -30°C. I was not that surprised as I saw some skiers whose cheeks had frozen, and had to stop, and ask some people on the side to warm them up. Fortunately I did not have this problem, since my face was well protected. I brought with me a one-time use camera, and I did not miss to take a picture of myself before taking off my hat at the third check point, Mångsbodarna, when it became much warmer. The check points were always very welcomed: Blueberry soups, sport drinks and cakes gave me incredible energy kicks. But the more the kilometers went, the more I felt like suffering… after 50 km, I just switched my brain to off, and pushed and pushed on my poles like a machine, it seemed to me that it took ages…70km done, and an unexpected pain on my left elbow occurred, I was then forced to use one arm for some kilometers, and tried to ski behind somebody to save energy. Finally the 9th and last check point, Eldris, before Mora where I ate and drank everything needed, and then put on the Turbo until the finishing line. Pain or not, it would be over soon. 9 km at 13.91 km/h, it went fast for me. And soon I could see the Church of Mora, where the finishing line was, some more curves, the last adrenaline kick when passing by the crowd for the last 200m, and I accomplished my second Öppet Spår in 6h and 34 minutes. Exhausted, starving, thirsty, but happy and proud of myself to have accomplished this race one more time and improved my time by 20 minutes. Never again! No, I think I’d better train harder for next year…
Facts about Vasaloppet
The Vasaloppet (which means the race of Vasa in Swedish) is the most famous cross country race in the world; it is 90 km long, classical style, starts from Sälen and ends at Mora in Dalarna, in the middle of Sweden. This event takes place every year the first Sunday of March, and attracts 16,000 people from all over the world. An alternative to the Vasaloppet, which is exactly as long, and much more relaxing, is the Öppet Spår (which means the opened track in Swedish), which takes place a week before, Sunday and Monday, and usually attracts 8,000 people. The start is free between 7am and 8am. During this week, many other events are organized, for example, the Tjejvasa (30km for ladys only), the Skatevasa (40km skating), the Staffet (90km relay)…
1520: Sweden was in a union with Denmark. Discontent with the Danish regime was great, not least from Gustav Eriksson Vasa, whose opposition to Kristian II had resulted in his being taken hostage and imprisoned in Denmark. But the 24-year old freedom fighter and nobleman from Uppsala managed to escape, and began a long and dangerous march north and urged farmers and villagers to revolt against the Danish authorities, but to no avail.
After a month fleeing, Gustav stood outside the church in Mora and addressed the assembled crowd. Only weeks before, his father and his brother together with some 80 other magnates had been beheaded in what came to be known as “Stockholm’s bloodbath”. Gustav asked how long the people could accept such atrocities and urged them to take up arms. But their reaction was not what the future king expected. The Danes were in close pursuit and, before he could get the answer he wanted, Gustav was forced to take to his skis and continue his flight North West towards Norway.
A few days later news of King Christian’s brutal ravages throughout Sweden reached Mora, the people regretting then that they had not immediately supported Gustav. Mora’s two best skiers, Lars and Engelbrekt, sent in hot pursuit of the fugitive Gustav Vasa, caught up with him in Sälen, and this was history’s first Vasalopp! Gustav was persuaded to return with them to Mora to lead the fight against northern Europe’s most powerful nation. On the 6th of June 1523, Gustav Eriksson Vasa was elected king of a free Sweden. Now he is a symbol for the world’s biggest ski competition – Vasaloppet!
Sunday 19th of March 1922: first Vasaloppet won by Ernst Alm, from Norsjö IF in 7 hours 32 minutes and 49 seconds, five minutes before Oskar Lindberg, from the same club. 119 skiers came to the start.
Related link: www.vasaloppet.se