La Grande Odyssée is a dog sled race taking place in Haute-Savoie and Savoie. Known to be the most complex in Europe, it welcomes every year more than 65 mushers and 600 dogs.
La Grande Odyssée, a must-see winter event
La Grande Odyssée was born from the meeting between Nicolas Vanier and Henry Kam. The two men wanted to revive sled dog races in France and more generally in Europe. This is how the first edition of La Grande Odyssée took place in January 2005.
Little by little, the event became a fixture in the calendars of mushers and spectators alike. So much so that it is now the annual event not to be missed. Not least because this stage race is considered the most demanding in Europe. It takes place in stages, during a little more than a week.
La Grande Odyssée in figures
Every year, the Grande Odyssée attracts more than 50,000 spectators. They are spread over all the stages, between Haute-Savoie and Savoie. But this race is also :
- 13 days of racing, that is to say more than 400 kilometres
- 12 metres of positive altitude difference
- 32 kilometres per day on average
- An average speed of more than 20 km/h
- About twenty stations crossed
The well-being of the dogs is of prime importance
In order to guarantee the well-being of the dogs, a team of vets accompanies the mushers throughout the Grande Odyssée. A health check is carried out before the start of the race and a clinical examination of each starting dog is requested.
During the competition, a dog may be temporarily excluded if it is judged to be in bad shape. Doping tests are also carried out during the Grande Odyssée, totally unannounced.
The essential stages of the Grande Odyssée
If some stages change from one year to another, some are well anchored in the Grande Odyssée calendar. We propose a focus on three of them, which take place in Haute-Savoie, on the Mont-Blanc side and in Savoie, in Haute-Maurienne.
The enchantment of Megève
Over the years, some stages have become more important than others. We are thinking in particular of the Megève stage, which takes place in unique landscapes. The start in the village also brings an extra touch of magic. The atmosphere is even more magical when it snows or when the snowfall is recent.
The polar base at the Mont-Cenis pass
The polar base stage at the Mont-Cenis pass is a must of La Grande Odyssée. The mushers leave from Lanslebourg, in the late afternoon. They take the road leading to the Mont-Cenis pass, which is used as a ski run in winter. They spend the night with their dogs at the polar base, located at an altitude of more than 2,000 metres.
The mass start in Bessans
The mass start in Bessans is certainly the most eagerly awaited stage, both for the dogs and the spectators. It is impressive to see the animals lined up next to each other, waiting for the start. The mushers go to Bonneval-sur-Arc and then down to Bessans and Val Cenis. We recommend that once the start is given, you go to the Villaron or to the Bonneval-sur-Arc area to enjoy the passage of the teams.
Practical information to enjoy the event
Where to stay during the Grande Odyssée?
If you wish to follow the Grande Odyssée, we suggest you to discover various accommodations, located in the various stations through which the sled dog competition passes.
Les Loges Blanches, Megève
This beautiful establishment is well placed, 200 metres from Le Jaillet and 500 metres from the centre of Megève. It consists of 5 chalets with rooms and suites, which communicate with the reception and the restaurant. A beautiful address that offers a sauna and an outdoor swimming pool.
From €120 per night.
Hotel Le Mont Jorat, Abondance
The hotel offers good value for money. All rooms have a balcony from which you can enjoy the view of the Alps. The restaurant features local specialities such as diots with white wine or tartiflette with Reblochon AOP.
From €60 per night.
Hotel Le Joli Bois, Bernex
The hotel Le Joli Bois is a charming accommodation located between lake and mountains, on the side of Bernex. You can enjoy good food in the hotel’s restaurant.
Pricesstart at 120€ per night.
Le Beausoleil, La Toussuire
The hotel Le Beausoleil is set in a chalet, only 150 metres from the slopes. This allows you to enjoy both the Grande Odyssée and the skiing. From your room you can see the mountains.
From €232 per night.
Alpazur, Val Cenis
Alpazur Val Cenis is a family-run hotel located in the heart of the village of Lanslebourg. It offers a view of the Arc River and the ski slopes of Val Cenis. The ski lifts are only 100 metres away. Pets are welcome at the hotel.
From 95€ per night.
Hotel de la Vanoise, Pralognan-la-Vanoise
The Hotel de la Vanoise is located in the heart of the village of Pralognan-la-Vanoise, just 50 metres from the slopes. The larger family rooms include a mezzanine. Pets are allowed at the hotel.
From 112€ per night.
Hotel Chalet du Crey, Valmorel
The Chalet du Crey is located a few minutes from the centre of Valmorel and offers packed lunches to its guests. This means you can spend the day outdoors, so you can fully enjoy the Grande Odyssée.
From 95€ per night.
Best Western, Villard-de-Lans
The Best Western in Villard-de-Lans is located in the heart of the village. The hotel offers a unique view of the surrounding mountains. Enjoy the peace and quiet of the hotel and its 3 hectares of nature.
From 125€ per night.
Our tips for enjoying the race
To fully enjoy the Grande Odyssée, there are some tips to know. For example, don’t stay at the start or the finish. It is much more impressive to see the dogs in full effort. So opt for climbs or flats. You will enjoy it all the more.
Don’t forget to dress warmly. On some stages, the riders may pass late and the wait may seem long. It would be silly to be cold. In case of particularly low temperatures, don’t hesitate to take a thermos with you.
Extra info: if you decide to go to the start village, don’t hesitate to go towards the trucks. This way you can get a closer look at the dogs. But be careful not to disturb the athletes.
The 2022 edition
The 2022 edition will take place from 7 to 19 January 2023. The prologue and the first stage will take place in Megève. The mushers and their dogs will then follow several stages in Haute-Savoie, before returning to Savoie on Wednesday 11 January with the La Toussuire – Le Corbier stage. The riders will then return to the Haute-Maurienne and in particular the resort of Val Cenis.
This year, and for the first time, the Grande Odyssée will finish in Isère, in Villard-de-Lans. All the Alpine territories of the region will be covered during the event.