On Sunday March 8, 2015, the historic Vasaloppet ski race was skied in Sweden in northwestern Dalarna, between the village of Sälen and town of Mora. The now 90-kilometer-long (56 miles) cross-country ski race was first raced in 1922. (Only three races have been cancelled — in 1932, 1934 and 1990 — for various reasons.) Since 1948, this, the world's biggest and longest ski competition has always been on the first Sunday of March, but due to this year’s World Ski Championships in nearby Falun, Vasaloppet was run on the second Sunday of March.

Vasaloppet 2015 was fully booked in one and a half minutes when registration opened in March 2014, with 15,800 participants. The record number is 16,462 from 2010, but the entry ceiling is now capped at 15,800.

 For the second year in a row, more than 2000 women registered — almost 15 percent of the participating skiers.


At Vasaloppet's start in Sälen there are 52 tracks in breadth, totaling 2,550 kilometers (1584.5 miles) of ski tracks for the eight Vasalopp races and events during Winter Week. Since 1922 a total of 522,014 Vasaloppet skiers have completed the 90 kilometer Vasaloppet — that’s a distance equivalent to 1,172 trips around the world or 61 journeys to the moon and back.

Vasaloppet 2015 skiers represented 40 different nations. (This is also the number of nations qualifying for the World Ski Championships in Falun.) About 3,700 of the registered participants came from nations other than Sweden: Most were from Norway (1,170); then Denmark (689), Finland (520), Czech Republic (311), Germany (245), Switzerland (140), Italy (128), Estonia (124), Iceland (65) and Russia (55).

Five of the past years' Vasaloppet winners are participating in Vasaloppet 2015. The most recent year a Swede won was 2012. The men who won the past two years, and the ladies the past three years have all been from Norway. In 2014 the winners were John Kristian Dahl (with a time of 4.14.33) and Laila Kveli (4.31.57). Laila also won in 2013. Up to this year, 887 Vasaloppet veterans (six of whom are women) have skied 30 or more Vasaloppets. Thirty-four participants, who have previously skied 29 races each, have this year registered to ski their 30th race, and three veterans have registered for this, their 50th Vasaloppet.

2015’s average age was 41.3. The youngest participants will turn 19 this year and the oldest will turn 89.

 Ernst Alm, who in 1922 won the very first Vasaloppet, is the youngest-ever male victor. He was 22 years old when he won. The oldest Vasaloppet victor is Jörgen Brink, who was almost 38 when he won in 2012. Since the official ladies class was introduced in 1997, the youngest and oldest winners among the women are Sofia Lind, who was 21 in 1997 and Svetlana Nagejkina, who was 37 when she won in 2002.

Swedish betting company Svenska Spel publishes odds a few days ahead of the race.

 Favorites among the betting companies were Johan Olsson, Öystein Pettersen and Anders Aukland. Three-time Vasaloppet winner Oskar Svärd planned to improve his time from Vasaloppet 2014 (4.14.52); he has been among Vasaloppet's top ten gents 14 times.

Celebrities on the course were:
 H.R.H Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark for the fourth year in a row; Helena Ekholm, three-time biathlon world champion; Melker Andersson, silver medalist from the World Chef Championships; 
Paolo Barilla, Italian race car driver and pasta king; Bernt Johansson, Olympic cycling gold medalist; Malin Ewerlöf, European Championship silver and 24 Swedish Championship gold medals in running; Emma Igelström, four World Championship golds and 12 European Championship golds in swimming; Richard Herrey, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest; television presenter Rickard Olsson, broadcasting live from the course as he skied.

Some registered World Championship skiers included: Johan Olsson, Daniel Richardsson, Anders Södergren, Alexander Legkov, Maxim Vylegzhanin, Sami Jauhojärvi, Seraina Boner, Katerina Smutná, Masako Ishida, Justyna Kowalczyk and Canadian Brian McKeever, with ten gold medals from the Paralympics.

The most Vasaloppet victories in the men's class are Nils "Mora-Nisse" Karlsson (9 wins), Janne Stefansson (7 wins), Arthur Häggblad and Jan Ottosson (4 wins), Oskar Svärd, Daniel Tynell and Jörgen Brink (3 wins).

 Sofia Lind has the most (4) Vasaloppet victories for women; she was also the fastest woman in 1996, the year before Vasaloppet's official ladies class was introduced.

 Fifty-five men have won the 90 races. There was a shared victory in 1988 when Örjan and Anders Blomqvist skied together over the finish line with the Kranskulla Karin Värnlund in their arms. The smallest margin between the ladies' and men's winners was in 2007 when Elin Ek was only 4 minutes and 49 seconds behind the men's winner Oskar Svärd. She was the 92nd skier to finish.

This year marks the 38th time there was a live television broadcast (in whole or in part) of Vasaloppet — now just about anywhere in the world and online. Last year Sweden’s five-hour Vasaloppet broadcast on SVT was watched by 2,200,000 viewers; it was SVT’s most watched program in 2014 with almost 30 percent of Sweden's population tuned in. Sending messages is popular, too — personal greeting to skiers are sent free via vasaloppshalsningen.se and shown on big screens next to the track.

Curiously, each participant in Vasaloppet's Winter Week drinks almost a liter of Ekströms blueberry soup, an important part of the Vasaloppet tradition. In 2014, a total of 44,000 liters of Ekströms blueberry soup, 39,000 liters of sport drinks, 11,000 liters of vegetable bouillon and 4,000 liters of coffee were consumed at the seven food checkpoints. Also consumed were 100,000 Vasalopps buns and some 6,000 liters of fruit juice. And for all this, 770,00 paper mugs are used, all of which are sorted at source for renewed paper packaging.

The first prize for 2015 was 91,000 SEK ($10,730) for both male and female winners. They also get a trophy, a garland and a kiss. A new Volkswagen car awaits winners who break a record (for men the time to beat is 3.38.41, won by Jörgen Brink in 2012, and for ladies it’s 4.08.24, won by Vibeke Skofterud in 2012).

And the 2015 winners are: Petter Eliassen, Norway, won the men's class in 4:01:48 and Justyna Kowalchyk, Poland, won the ladies class in 4:41:02. Both are newcomers to Vasaloppet though they have each skied well in World Cup races. And Kowalchyk broke a record — she crossed the finish line behind just 70 men: That’s best placement ever for a Vasaloppet ladies class winner.

As for next year: Registration for Vasaloppet on March 6, 2016, and the other seven races in Vasaloppet's Winter Week 2016, opens at vasaloppet.se on March 22, 2015 at 9 a.m. Participants who have completed three races (Vasaloppet or Öppet Spår) over the past six years (2010–2015) have priority and can register between March 16 and 19. http://www.vasaloppet.se