Our hero in a red cap
Nils ”Mora-Nisse” Karlsson is one of the greatest figures in Vasaloppet history. In 1943, 25-year-old Nils Karlsson competed in his first Vasaloppet and won. He raced ten times in total and took home nine victories, which is more than anyone else in Vasaloppet’s long history. But Mora-Nisse also had success in competitions other than Vasaloppet. In 1948 he took the 50 kilometre Olympic Gold and in 1950 the World Championship bronze over the same distance. During his active years, Mora-Nisse also won a total of 37 Swedish Championship golds, 17 of which were individual. He was awarded the Svenska Dagbladet Gold Medal and the Holmenkollen medal.
After his active career, Mora-Nisse continued to work within Vasaloppet, first as course manager between 1961 and 1967 and then as competition director and chairman of Vasaloppet’s organization committee between 1968 and 1985. It was during his years as course manager that Vasaloppet was given the route that largely remains to this day and which made it possible for Vasaloppet to grow both during winter and summer.
Why a red cap?
Mora-Nisse is strongly associated with the red cap he wore during all ski competitions from 1942 and on. Why he started using a red cap is not completely certain, but all evidence suggests that it had its origin at the Svenska Turistföreningen mountain station in Vålådalen.
Vålådalen was, for many years, the place where Swedish elite athletes polished their form before World and Olympic Championships. And it was Gösta Olander, the mountain station’s leaseholder and trainer, that had the idea of bringing a red cap for his guests. Mora-Nisse took his cap with him and wore it during competitions. Eventually the red cap became part of IFK Mora’s ski uniform. On March 5, 2017, Vasaloppet asks all participants in Vasaloppet wear a red cap when starting the race, in honour of the memory of our great hero.