Britta Norgren Johansson won the 2016 women's ski race Tjejvasan.
Britta Norgren Johansson won the 2016 women's ski race Tjejvasan. Credit: Ulf Palm/TT

The Vasa ski race week is underway

The Vasa Ski race season is underway. On Saturday Britta Johansson Norgren won the 30 kilometre women's race Tjejvasan.

She reached the winning wreath of flowers after a fierce spurt when ten contestants had entered the finishing area at the same time. All in all, some 10,000 skiers had signed up for the Tjejvasa race.

Johansson Norgren told news agency TT she hopes the win will set her up for a good start in the main Vasa ski race which will take place next Sunday.

The Vasa Ski race is hailed as the longest ski race in the world, and takes place the first Sunday in March every year. But these days, the legendary main race is accompanied by a range of other races, such as Tjejvasan, the Youth Vasa and the "half Vasa".

Saturday also offered the very youngest ski racers to break into the Wasa-tradition, with three to ten year olds setting off along 90 metre, 300 metre or 800 metre tracks depending on their age and skiing ability.

Sunday this weekend sees the beginning of the "open track", when 10,000 skiers take on the 90 kilometres between Sälen and Mora, the same distance as in the "main" Vasa Ski race next Sunday, but less competitive, as "you only compete with yourself" as the organisers call it.

At total of 66,000 skiers have signed up of one race or other during what the organisers call the Vasa "winter week".

The past few years, the ski race has been suffering from the warm weather and lack of snow, but this year, things are looking up.

"the weather forecast looks great as far ahead as we can see. It’s going to be a fantastic Winter Week 2016,” said Arena Manager Anders Hobbe Holmberg in a statement earlier in the week.

The first Vasa ski race took place in 1922, but it really originates from when Gustav Vasa in 1521 tried to get people of Dalarna to revolt against the Danish king Christian. According to the legend, Gustav Vasa had not managed to convince the people of Mora to join him in his cause, so - to avoid being captured by the king's men - he got a pair of skis and set off for Norway.

When the news that the King had ordered the beheading of a large number of people in what became known as the Stockholm blood bath, reached the people in Mora, they regretted not having supported Gustav Vasa and sent off their best skiers after him. They finally caught up with him in Sälen and convinced hem to return with them to lead the fight against King Christian.

Just over two years later Gustav Eriksson Vasa was chosen as king of Sweden. The Vasaloppet ski race today runs in the opposite direction of the journey Gustav Vasa did back then.

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