La Grande Odyssée dogsled competition © Allibert Trekking
10 stages, 11 days, 18 mushers: from January 13-24, ski resorts in the Savoie-Mont Blanc region of France will welcome back the 14th edition of La Grande Odyssée, the world’s most challenging dogsled race. Like a marathon, except with dogs and set against the beautiful backdrop of Savoie in the French Alps, La Grande Odyssée unites the world’s best mushers and several hundred dogs in a fierce competition. Primarily Siberian and Alaskan huskies, the dogs are swapped in and out strategically to allow the mushers the best chance at winning. A team of 8 vets will be on hand to ensure the health of the dogs.
There are two categories: long and mid. In the long race, the dogs will run 612km with an altitude difference of 22000m. The mid race is only 379km long, with an altitude difference of 13000m. The biggest single altitude gain will be 3140m, at La Plagne. The mushers come from all over the world: Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland and Andorra and range in age from 26 to 61. Spectators can follow along with the mushers thanks to live GPS tracking or watch the race on TV screens in the participating villages. Plenty of fun activities are planned at the host villages. In addition to meetings with the dogs, there will be campfires, films, igloo-building workshops and even giant tartiflettes.
Racing in La Grande Odyssée © Vincent Piccerelle
© La Grande Odyssée
La Grande Odyssée finish line © Vincent Piccerelle
La Grande Odyssée at night © Vincent Piccerelle
Known for its scrumptious cuisine, France’s Savoie Mont Blanc region also boasts some of the best skiing in the world. Apart from the 400km-strong Evasion Mont-Blanc ski area, represented here by Megève, there are 260km of pistes at Le Grand Massif, which includes ski resorts such as Samoëns and Morillon. And, of course, Les Gets is linked to Les Portes du Soleil, one of the world’s biggest ski areas with 600km of pistes. The Grande Odyssée is also the perfect excuse to visit smaller, lesser-known ski resorts, such as the charming Praz de Lys - Sommand with its views of Lake Geneva, or the family-friendly Savoie Grand Revard. Most ski resorts in Savoie are easily accessible from Geneva or Chambéry airports.
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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