The Vasaloppet has a very long tradition, with its origins dating back to royalty and the 16th century! The modern era of the race is more recent, being 1922, but still that’s an event that’s been around a looong time!
The Vasaloppet is named after Gustav Ericsson Vasa who became king of Sweden in 1523.
In 1520, the young nobleman Gustav Ericsson Vasa was escaping from the troops of Christian II, king of Denmark, Sweden and Norway (the Kalmar Union). Much of the Swedish nobility was in opposition to the king, and had nicknamed him Christian the Tyrant. In a move to silence the opposition, Christian invited the Swedish aristocracy to a reconciliation party in Stockholm, only to have them, including Gustav's parents, massacred in what came to be known as the Stockholm Bloodbath.
Gustav was escaping through Dalarna, fearing for his life if he were discovered by the king's troops, when he spoke to the assembled men of Mora (Finish area) and tried to convince them to raise a levy and start a rebellion against King Christian. The men refused to join the rebellion, and Gustav started toward Norway to seek refuge. However, he was later caught at Sälen (Start area) by two Mora brothers on skis - the men in Mora had changed their minds after hearing that the Danish rulers had decided to raise taxes, and they now wanted Gustav to lead the rebellion. On 6 June 1523, Gustav Vasa was crowned king of Sweden, having defeated the Danish king Christian and dissolved the Kalmar Union. Sweden has been fully independent ever since.
(Source: Wikipedia, 06.02.2013, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasaloppet)
The first modern Vasaloppet took place in 1922 with 119 skiers attending. It then took awhile for women to be allowed to also participate – this occurring in 1981. Today it´s the biggest Cross-Country ski race where everyone can participate – as there are a variety of race distances which cater for different ages and abilities.