Did Chinese people also cloned the legendary Vasaloppet? Yes, but don’t worry, are the same Swedish organizers that have exported this event in the most populous State of the world.
For those who still don’t know, the Vasaloppet is a cross-country skiing race that takes place every year in the region of Dalarna, in Sweden, the first Sunday of March. It is the most ancient, longest and biggest cross-country skiing race of the world, and every year it attracts more than 15.000 enthusiasts of this sport. It is 90 km long and it goes across the village of Salen and the city of Mora.
This race was born in 1922 and it is inspired by the trail that Prince Gustav of Sweden completed in 1520 before leading to victory the Swedish people against Denmark.
Freddy Mair - an athlete who participated to several international events of skiing and Mountain Bike and also is the founder of the FUNActive Tours travel agency - he took part to the Chinese version of the Vasaloppet race, and today he’s here to tell us his experience.
- Introduce yourself to our readers: who are you, from which kind of sport do you come from, what results did you achieve and what do you do right now?
I was born and I live in Villabassa-Niederdorf in Südtirol, in the province of Bolzano. In 1988, during my military service, I started to practice mountain biking at competitive level, being part of the sporting group of “Arma dei Carabinieri”. In these years I was selected several times for the World Cup and I won many titles of Italian champion and conquered more times the “Kenia MTB Rally.
In 1995 I participated at the famous first edition of the Australian “Crocodile Trophy”, arriving at the third place. In the same year, I elaborated a hard and spectacular trail of the “Dolomites Superbike”, that over the years it became a sporting event of great importance. In 1998 I left the agonistic activity
In 2002, I founded FUNActive Tours, a travel agency that is specialized in proposals of sporting outdoor.
- How did you decide to participate at the Vasaloppet China?
I already took part at four editions of the Swedish event, and when they decided to organize this Chinese version I was curious to go there and try it. At the end, three of my friends and I went there for about ten days.
I also want to say that exists a worldwide circuit of Granfondo of nordic ski in which recently joined new States such as Argentina, China, Island and New Zealand. In February I would like to participate at the polish competition of this challenge.
- In which part of China took place the competition?
We were in Chancung, a city with 8 million people that is located at 800 km northward from Beijing. We arrived in Beijing with our flight and then we moved in the place of the event: going there we traveled by plane, to the way back we traveled by train.
- Which differences did you find between the original Vasaloppet and the Chinese one? How many people participated there?
It is a very small race with about 600 participants, half Chinese and half foreign people. It is shorter - 50 km - and it takes place in a huge park at the edge of the city, therefore also the landscape is very different compared to the Swedish event. We were surrounded by forests also if we were only at 300 meters above the sea level. We competed on artificial snow but it was very cold, in this period of the year the temperature during the night can arrive at 20 degrees below zero. I finished the race about in mid-table.
- Is the cross-country ski a growing sport in China?
I think they are pushing it a lot. In this huge park in which we raced (before it was a territory occupied by Japanese people) every year about 600 thousands students do some courses of cross-country ski…Not for nothing, Chinese athletes in this race arrived at the second and third place, but the first one was a Swedish.
- What effect do you think chinese people have with this kind of events? Are they technically ready or are they just…improvising?
The organization of this event was the same as the Swedish one, the important thing for Chinese people is the entertainment, the presentation and the prize-giving, which is really long. They still have some difficulties to understand the spirit of these events, even if the Vasaloppet was already at the thirteen edition.
- Would you suggest this experience?
Yes, I think it’s the perfect opportunity to visit Beijing and live this sportive experience. It gives you the idea about how this State is growing economically and how much the landscape and the cities are always changing!
- Usually we think about Chinese people like a population that is always busy at work… Actually, with the economic improvement, they will find more and more the time to travel and play some sports. Do you think it would represent a potential great market for this kind of activity?
Today it is marginal, because travelers still don’t have in their mind the idea of “outdoor”: they only practice a classic type of tourism, maybe the sport tourism will be developed in some years. Of course there’s some niche, but the masses still didn’t increase this kind of sensitivity.