15 January 2013 from Nikki in 'Live from the slopes''

blue-eyed husky

La Grande Odysée is the largest specialist dog sled race in the world which runs from January 12 to January 23, 2013 in the Savoie region in France. This event brings together 25 of the world’s best mushers and about 300 of their faithful canine companions, to race an epic marathon through the snow.

During this great adventure participants cover 800 km in 11 stages through the Savoie and Haute-Savoie even sleeping rough between stages when necessary!

The principle of the race

La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc is the biggest race of its kind in the world. It allows 25 expert mushers to sign up 14 of their best dogs and to cover different distances in 11 stages during the two weeks of the race. The different steps pass through resorts from the departure point in Samoens to Les Saisies then onto Aussois and finishing in Termignon. Through the majestic landscapes of Savoie and Haute Savoie participants from 12 countries, come to challenge the 25 000 meters of vertical altitude change that the chosen route imposes. The competition takes place day and night, and is welcomed by 25 ski resorts which offer entertainment to add an extra festive feel to the event and to cheer on the participants. The departure of the 10 steps are as'' mass'' home either as against the clock, a bit like a racing cyclist. The day before the departure, a ceremony with entertainment is held to welcome the participants and bring everyone together. On the day of the departure, there is a large gathering of spectators who come enjoy this rare event and watch the mass start as the eager dogs leap into action…

Different trophies ''to make your dogs a legend''

The Trophy Grande Odyssée - At the end of step 4, 5 and 6 of the competition the Trophy Grande Odyssée will be awarded. This part of the competition is open to 10 participants in what is called the Espace Diamant. The mid-distance mushers, will travel more than 180km, climbing over 7500 meters of ascent in total! The Trophey Haute Maurienne Vanoise - This trophy will involve 10 mushers during steps 7, 8 and 9 of La Grande Odyssée Savoie Mont Blanc in the area of Haute Maurienne Vanoise. Covering 200 km in total and 5000 meters of ascent, the challenge is on!

mushing dogs

History of the race

The race organizers highlight their values of authenticity and emotion and revel in simultaneously providing entertainment to those who participate and watch this event. This race was born from a friendship and has become the largest dog sled race in the world. Henry Kam and Nicolas Vanier, two true lovers of sled dogs decide that it’s unfair that the old continent does not have its own race. Having learnt a lot on the Yukon Quest, the legendary race of 1000 miles joining the Yukon Territory to Alaska in which they participated as volunteers, they decided to put their ideas into actions. The two men were already working on the project when Dominique Grandjean, famous husky veterinary specialist, with some experience in organizing such races decided to join them. The three experts; a champion, a dog and race organization specialist, and a marketing specialist put their efforts together and in 2003, the first edition of the race took place. The first edition took place in 2003 and the rest of the story is just like a romance. Thanks to hard work and well-oiled logistics, this event very quickly started to attract the best in the sport – and of course, along with them came the media and partnerships. Year after year, the success continues and this event now uses its image to convey positive messages about respect for the mountains and nature.

bike mushing

What's mushing all about?

The origin of the word musher comes from the French word for walking – “marcher”! French traders and explorers were the first Europeans in the Arctic regions of North America and learned dog sledding from the natives. They used to shout “marcher” to get the dogs going and it just stuck and became a more general “mush” sound! Mushing consists of directing one or more dogs from a towed element. It goes without saying that the bond between man and dog is founded by the effort and trust. This activity can be practiced on snow and on pathways with a pulka sled for snow and a kart, scooter or even a mountain bike on countryside paths.

Dog power!

In the championship there are numerous classes and each may take from one to twelve dogs. All breeds are allowed, but the most frequently used are: Alaskan Malamute, Samoyed, The Alaskan Husky, The Greenlanders, The Siberian Husky or the Eurohound! All strong breed which resist the low temperatures...

Leave a comment or join us on Facebook if you've ever tried this activity.

For the official program you can visit the organiser's website www.grandeodyssee.com

husky pups

Being lucky enough to have parents who were crazy about skiing, my love for the mountains started when I was 4 years old on our first family ski holiday to Austrian ski resort of Obergurl. One ski holiday a year was never enough and tears rolled down my face as I looked out the back window of the car on the drive down the valley on the way home!