Training for Vasaloppet: Here are Northug’s best tips

The ski legend shares his top training tips for Vasaloppet and other cross-country ski races in the Skisporet podcast.


Hear all the tips from Petter Northug in the Skisporet podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify or Youtube. Note: Norwegian-speaking.


The biggest cross-country skier is returning to the ski trail this winter. This past autumn, Petter Northug has been training 70–80 hours a month to perform at his best in the Ski Classics, including Marcialonga and Vasaloppet. These are 70k and 90k races respectively, which puts special demands on those who want to make it to the top.

Ready for ski classic

Petter Northug announced his retirement in December 2018 and can look back at a professional career where he won no less than 15 Olympic and World Cup medals. With his comeback in cross-country skiing, the ski king now considers himself more of an exerciser than a professional skier. The aim and motivation behind his comeback are to see how good he can get at skiing long-distance races. In 2022, he clocked thousands of kilometers on roller skis. Now he goes on long ski trips without grip wax on his skis and focusing on getting as many hours on skis as possible.

And this is the exact amount of training that Petter Northug recommends in his tips for recreational skiers who want to have a go at Vasaloppet.

"Make sure to get 3–4 skiing sessions in of 4+ hours each. And if you have the chance, you could add a 5-hour session. On your long workouts, you’ll be training for how you'll feel in Vasaloppet", says Northug in the Skisporet podcast.

Further reading: Try Hans Christer Holund’s training program for skiers.

Train your mental approach

The 36-year-old recommends using your long-distance skiing workouts as test runs, where proper recharging and mental training are just as important as the actual skiing.

Northug reveals that he often uses training and long ski runs to play out different scenarios in his head: This could be gearing up mentally to approach a run-up, or to deal with suddenly spotting his biggest rival up ahead. Petter’s tip is to find similar scenarios during your training that will take you up an extra gear.

He emphasizes that the long-distance run is so important that you should consider this to be your most important training session for long-distance skiing. He therefore recommends you get extra rest in advance to ensure a quality long-distance run.


Comeback: Northug in action on one of the season’s first Ski Classic race. Photo credit: Nordic Focus.

Further reading: Waxing tips for Vasaloppet, Birken and other ski races.

Training in the final week before the race

You’ve done as Petter Northug says and trained well throughout the winter. Now Vasaloppet is approaching, and you’re unsure what to do in the last week. Do you rest to save energy or do you carry on training? Northug’s recommendation is clear.

"It’s better to do a long session two days before the race than not to train at all. You don't want your metabolism to have gone into rest mode when you're on the start line of a race as long as the Vasaloppet. This is a risk if all you do is rest in the run-up to the race, he says, adding that it's better just to lower the intensity to ensure you have plenty of energy for the race.

Here it's worth looking back at what you did ahead of your long-distance training sessions. Which sessions felt extra good and what did you do in the days leading up to them? Try copying what worked.

Sounds like a good plan, right? We wish you all the best in your training.

Read more articles about cross-country skiing and training.

Summary: Petter Northug’s training tips for long-distance ski racing

  • Include long-distance ski sessions. You should have at least 3–4 ski sessions of 4+ hours each, preferably longer, in the bag.
  • Prepare properly for the long sessions. Add plenty of rest ahead of your long sessions to get the most out of them.
  • Train your mental approach. Train your mental approach to a run-up, the highest point of the ski trail or spotting your rival ahead of you.
  • Don't take to the sofa in the week leading up to the race. Train as normal, but reduce the intensity.

Petter Northug trains and competes with Swix Triac 4.0 Aero ski poles. We're looking forward to following the comeback season of the man who has given us plenty of goosebumps over the years as we watched him on the ski trails.