The importance of Gällivare’s Dundret Mountain to the world of skiing cannot be stressed enough.
People have always skied up, down and around this vast, low-lying mountain and landmark. Those approaching Gällivare from the coast notice something extra popping up in their field of vision. The feeling one gets on the western peak, when the weather is clear, looking over an eleventh of Sweden’s surface, is incomparable. A 5000 hectare nature reserve since 1970, Dundret offers stunning views of the landscape, with both Kebnekaise and Sarek in the distance. The midnight sun seen during the summer is fantastic, of course, but Dundret truly shines in the winter. Skiing in Gällivare has been happening since the 1900s, and 1921 saw the first Dundretloppet, which was run annually up until 1946.
It was a competition with both cross-country and downhill sections.
It began at the Dundret Cabin (which burned down in the late 40s), and the finished at the railway tracks below Fjällnäs. The fastest competitors finished the race in eight or nine minutes!
However, it wasn’t easy in those days to get involved in the ski business, and a lot depended on the young people and whether or not they wanted to participate (especially in competitions).
Today, the tracks are maintained with modern equipment, although there are no lights, and it’s a constant struggle in the darkness and deep snow. However, the illuminated street between the train station and the hospital was a good alternative for training and smaller competitions during the dark winter months.
Unfortunately, the leaders and activists couldn’t keep the momentum going, and the entire cross-country skiing industry fell into a slump for most of the 30s. During this time, any skiers chose to spend most of their time on the precipices of Dundret.
This could partially explain the vibrant downhill skiing culture in Gällivare and Malmberget, for long periods the best in the country.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that cross-country skiing was taken seriously again.
A competition came into being during this time which is still run today, thriving alongside the World Cup and other competitions. Dundret Runt is the race, and it’s the longest running ski race in Sweden. It takes place on the slopes and peaks of Dundret, and is the precursor to many modern endurance races.
Dundret Runt has attracted people to Gällivare from all over the world, and the locals hope to develop it into something truly spectacular in the future. The race has tons of potential, due to the favourable snow conditions and the often lovely weather, when the sunshine during the spring brings welcome warmth. This classic race is a sure sign that spring has sprung, and it gives skiers the opportunity to ski in good company, at their own pace, in fantastic weather, without worrying about their times.
The story of Dundret Runt is tied up with its leader, Erik Nylander, from Friluftsfrämjandet in Gällivare. Nylander spent many years as the chairman of the Dundret Runt Committee.
He had an extraordinary passion for the sport, and is described as “a champion of the outdoors, an ideas man, an organizer, a shameless beggar, and a fearless, fun debater.” His passion is what drove him to develop the ski race around Dundret.
The first iteration of Dundret Runt took place on April 11th, 1965. It gave participants the choice of a 30 or 60 kilometer course. The 60 kilometer participants began down at Herrträsk, and the 30 kilometer participants took the cable car to the peak of Dundret, crossing the mountain to end at Kelvakontrollen on the south side.
The idea for the race began with a visit from Gösta Frohm, the famous Swedish ski coach and promoter. It was his idea that Friluftsfrämjandet should start some sort of race around Dundret. “Say the name ‘Dundret’ several times, and it becomes poetry,” said Frohm, waxing lyrical about the mountain and captivating Erik Nylander.
1969 was the last year for the cable car run. A sudden influx of ice caused a huge amount of injuries and broken equipment. Many were re-routed to the starting line, with broken noses and bruises, to begin again along another route.
These days, the 30 kilometer race is quite easily done, while the now-shortened 46 kilometer race remains quite challenging. There are various drink stations all along the route, with Malmkontrollen at the ten kilometer mark being the largest and most popular.
Dundret Runt has seen thousands of participants through the years, and the 48th edition on March 31st of this year saw a record-breaking 1100 people at the starting line in Hellner Stadium.
A new addition to the race was a competition class with recorded times, used as a seeding race for Vasaloppet 2013. The winner of the inaugural competition class race was none other than Urban Lindgren, Gällivare born-and-raised and World Cup silver medal winner in relay.
The competition class adds a new dimension to the race, and attracts a number of high-profile skiers. One of them is Dundret’s most famous son, Marcus Hellner, Olympic and world champion.
“I love Dundret, and through the years I’ve trained in Dundret’s terrain in both the summer and winter,” says Hellner. “It’s a fantastic atmosphere during the spring as well.” Hellner is the perfect ambassador for both Dundret and Gällivare, and will work to bring other superstars to the starting line at Dundret Runt.