The prolog of the 10th edition of the Grande Odyssée dog sled race got under-way today at Samoens in the Haute-Savoie in front of 7000 spectators. The event is the biggest stage race of its kind in the world. Many of the spectators would have been unaware that the organizers had been up all night dealing with the vagaries of the weather. Not storms this year but spring like temperatures.
The course managers and the piste services in the Giffre worked through the night on rerouting parts of today's stage of the Grande Odyssée dog sled race from les Carroz to Flaine via Agy. Up until three days ago 85% of the course was practicable but a foehn (warm southerly wind) that brought daytime temperatures of 15C meant that half the course lacked sufficient snow cover, particularly the sections in the woods. A backup plan was devised with the priority on the health of the dog teams and on minimizing the environmental impact.
450 cubic meters of snow has been brought in to ensure the sections around the village of Sixt Fer-a-Cheval are practicable on Monday. The operation has been carbon offset with a partner organization who is installing a greenhouse gas capture plant at a rubbish dump in Thailand.
The heat is problematic for the dogs more normally used to arctic temperatures. The stages will be divided into a number of leg in order to rest the dogs and give them an opportunity to drink. Sunday's stage has also been reduced by 10km with 3500 meters climbing.