MORA, Minn. (WCCO) – Minnesota is great for a quick getaway, even in winter. That’s why we’re Goin’ to the (Frozen) Lake this February! Four our second trip, Amelia Santaniello and Mark Rosen are headed to Mora.
This weekend is the 44th Annual Mora Vasaloppet! It’s now a race that attracts cross country skiers from all over the world, but it all started with a simple idea back in 1972.
The first ever Mora Vasaloppet was the brain child of Glen Johnstone. He heard about a ski race by that name in Mora, Sweden and thought they should do the same in Mora, Minnesota.
Eventually, they got rights to host the local event, and Glen and his wife Jean have been involved every step of the way and have seen the race evolve over the years.
That first race had just about 100 skiers, making their way through a 30k course made on old logging trails. Now, more than 1,000 skiers will race on a 58k course that is maintained year round.
Thanks to the new snow making machine, this year’s race should be one of their best. They’ve had some issues over the past few years because of a lack of snow, but this year they’ve been able to make it and the course is looking great.
The Vasaloppet isn’t Mora’s only draw in the winter — there’s also a great little downtown area filled with shops and restaurants. It’s also home to the Vasaloppet office.
Mark and Amelia say they’ve heard great things about the local bakery, but haven’t had a chance to get there. You’ll also find a touch of Sweden just about everywhere you go — the Swedish were the town’s first settlers, and the locals are very proud of that fact!
Just just a few blocks from downtown you’ll find Mora Lake. It’s about 63 acres and is only about 24 feet deep. As far as fishing goes, you’ll find bluegills and northern.
This weekend a portion of the lake will be transformed into ski trails for the Vasaloppet course will go right over the lake and right by the Mora bell tower which sits up on the hill.
Mora’s Swedish Heritage
The Vasaloppet isn’t the only piece of Swedish influence you’ll find in Mora. The biggest, and most recognizable, is the Dala Horse on the south side of town. It’s 25 feet high and replicates the popular Swedish hand-carved souvenir.
You’ll also find this cool clock in the center of town. The “Mora Klocka” as its called was built in 1994 as an honor to the city’s Swedish settlers. The clock stands 20 feet tall.
The town’s Swedish heritage is also evident at the hustle and bustle of the Nordic Center — the organization that gives everyone in the area access to 15 kilometers of groomed trails.
“Fast Tracks” Cross-Country Skiing Program
The Mora Boys’ Cross Country team were up at Giant’s Ridge in Biwabik Thursday evening to compete in this year’s state meet. As Frank and Amelia found out, a lot of the kids in Mora learned to love cross country skiing at an early age thank’s to a cool program started about 20 years ago known as Fast Track.
The program gets kids on skis at an early age, starting as young as kindergarten. The goal is to get kids to grow to love the sport, and they have one major advantage — access to some of the best trails in the state.
Check out the video above to learn more about the program.
As we’ve mentioned, Cross Country skiing has become a big draw here in Mora. They’ve got a great Nordic Center where skiers can meet and hit the trails.
But it’s not all about skiing here — there are also plenty of opportunities to go ice fishing. Amelia and Mark found a great local guide and hit Knife Lake to see if anything was biting. Check out the video above to see what they found!
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