By Teemu Virtanen
Many of the Visma Ski Classics races have a historic back-story upon which the event has been built. It is usually a folklore tale of heroic adventures and rescue missions on skis in the midst of gruesome nature, and it is often a saga of the birth of nations.
Vasaloppet’s history goes back to the 16th century when Gustav Eriksson carried out the first “Vasalopp” when he was fleeing from the Danish king. He stopped in Sälen and returned to Mora to lead the uprising against the occupation forces, and he eventually managed to unite the realm and he became the first king of Sweden, better known under the name Gustav Vasa.
Birkebeinerrennet’s tale of heroism is even older than Vasaloppet’s as it originated in the early 13th century when two soldiers, Birkebeiners, skied over the mountains and carried a baby prince Haakon to safety. This precious cargo was extremely valuable as he eventually became the great king of Norway uniting the opposing tribes.
Marcialonga may not have such a glorious tale to use for promoting their event, but the race started as Italy’s response to these two famous Scandinavian events. It has now become a classic on its own merits. Jizerska 50 in the Czec Republic honors the 15 brave mountain explorers who died on their Peru expedition in the early 70s.
This Saturday, Reistadløpet will take place in Northern Norway, and the event, which has been organized 56 times, has its own story to tell. The idea behind the race was to commemorate a great skier, a Norwegian champion in pentathlon in 1922 and the leader of the ski patrol who won the Olympic championships in St. Moritz in 1928.
This hero was Colonel Ole Reistad who was the head of the squadron at Bardufoss in 1940. During the Second World War, he educated and trained Norwegian pilots in Canada, and after the war he returned to Bardufoss to become the head of the air defense in Northern Norway. He was a great lover of sports and outdoor life, and he contributed greatly to the cooperation between the civilian and the military societies.
Reistadløpet, a 50 km course from Setermoen to Bardufoss, kicks off at 10 am CET with the elite women start followed by the elite men at 10:30 am CET. Stay tuned for more articles, interviews and videos on our social media sites.