By Annick Dournes & Frédéric de Poligny
Once again from 9 to 20 January 2021 international mushers and their dogs will be ready to conquer one of the most coveted titles of sled dog races. Set in the spectacular landscapes of the French Alps the “Great Odyssey” is now the inevitable rendezvous of all mountain and dogs lovers.
Amazing, demanding, unique… there are so many terms to describe this race! Year after year since its first edition in 2005 the Grande Odysée has become the European reference in the small world of mushers. It undoubtedly is the most desirable title for them and this year all the registrations were completed in just 10minutes! 68 mushers and their 600 dogs, all of them top athletes, will be part of the 12-day race along 400 km and for 10 stages.
The race begins with an 8-km prologue in Samoëns, the renowned French ski resort. Each day, far from marked tracks, the teams will go across unspoiled spaces of pure white snow and through wild forests. Of course spectators are more than welcome to encourage the dogs and their mushers. Each stage is set in a different ski resort such as Megève, Les Gets or Pralognan-la-Vanoise. Departure and arrival times are celebrated with many outdoor festive entertainments. Along the route a lot of viewing points are organised to allow spectators to see the dogs in full action. These points can be reached by foot, by ski, with snowshoes and tours are organised by the resorts to help you get to them.
The dogs’ health is a major concern during the races and 9 veterinaries take good care of all the dogs during these 12 demanding days. X rays, ultrasound scans or blood tests can be made at any point of the race including in high-mountain or through difficult weather conditions. These athlete dogs can suffer from stress such as stomach or muscle pain, and every thing is done to help them using natural remedies such as high-tech probiotics and natural plant extracts.
Children are not forgotten. As spectators many activities are organised to introduce them to this wonderful sport and to other mountain activities as well. But kids are also welcome to be part of the race. Young mushers have their own race, “L’Odyssée des Enfants”. For one day 21 teenagers from local schools can do as professional mushers do. They have been trained for several months for this very special event and to make the most of it. Future champions are ready for this five-km race with a three-dog team. The Children’s Odyssey will take place in Praz-de-Lys Sommand on Sunday 10 January 2021.
Every year over 50,000 spectators come to the twenty different ski resorts on the route of the Grande Odyssée to admire this fantastic race. It’s an amazing adventure for the mushers and of course for the dogs who, as true athlete, love to win. A race to celebrate a unique sport in a unique nature!
More information at www.grandeodyssee.com
Text ©Annick Dournes
Photos by courtesy of La Grande Odyssée (LGO)