By Felicia Gesior Last February, through the Vasaloppet USA race in Mora, Minnesota, I won the coolest prize I have ever received: a trip to race the Swedish Vasaloppet in Mora, Sweden. As a winner of the sister Vasa in the US, a 50K skate race, you get the experience of going over to Sweden to join 15,000 other racers ski 90k on a beautiful wooded point to point trail. Coming out on the other side of the experience, I can say it was every bit as wonderful, surprising and inspiring as I could have imagined.

I had watched videos from the Vasaloppet and been told by countless people about how many skiers you ski alongside during this 90k classic race but nothing can compare to actually being in the middle of it. Up the first climb, it’s total stop and go with people shoulder to shoulder on each side of you. Looking around and taking it in made me laugh at the sheer craziness of it. The snake of people goes as far as you can see ahead with no gaps between skiers.

A couple of kilometers into the race, you make it up the first long climb and can breathe a little as the crowds of people turn into long trains of double polers. At most places, the course was about 8 tracks wide. However, because of new snowfall before and during the race, people started to consolidate to two tracks that had been skied in. These tracks skied considerably faster than the tracks with fresh snow in them. With passing on the flats tough, I tucked in and skied along in a train following those ahead of me.

I found my best plan was to sit behind in the fast tracks until I got to a climb. Then I would jump out and stride along the side of the trail to pass people. At times, I would be weaving in and out of skiers going up the hill to get around. I had awesome skis and my legs felt fresh on the climbs after so much double pole so this strategy seemed to work well for me. It was fun to move through so many people. I was blown away at the talent and hard work of all the skiers around me also on this journey of conquering 90k.

This was the longest race I had ever done but I was really happy with how it felt. Luckily, I never had any big bonks and was able to keep punching along kicking off the kilometers as I passed them. The atmosphere and excitement surrounding the whole event was such a fun experience to be part of. I’m so thankful for all of the Vasaloppet USA community in Mora that helped make this trip possible. With all the different race options and events throughout the week, the Vasaloppet has something to offer to every skier and I would highly recommend the experience to anyone considering taking the journey!