There's something exhilarating about watching the sun rise at subzero temperatures while hundreds of dogs are being readied for what is believed to be the hardest dogsled race in the world because of its 11 days of ups and downs.
The dogs are friendly and the handlers even friendlier. It's great fun to walk around the dogs and watch them being fed and massaged and groomed and harnessed. The vets, all ten of them, do the rounds to make sure the dogs are in shape to run that day.
Each evening the race stops in a different village so it's easy to catch either the arrival or the departure the next morning if you happen to be in the French Alps in January. I caught up with it in Megeve but I could also have met up with it elsewhere - organizers map it out on their website and make it easy to meet up.
It can get very cold waiting for the dogs to be ready and unlike winter sports, when you're active and can get warm, there's no place to hide on a mountain. Make sure you wear the right clothes because there's every chance you'll have to walk to the starting line, wait for the first team, and each team after that.