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Advice RE: driving to the alps

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@Jonny996, I totally get your situation. You may have to just stick to summers with chains but you won’t be able to drive through countries where M&S are mandatory. Not sure what cars you drive but IIRC Audi AWD’s can now be spec’d with ‘cross climate’ tyres (I may be talking out of my ar$e)
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papajc wrote:
Layne wrote:
papajc wrote:
My motivation for driving would to some degree be financial, however i am aware it might not necessarily be cheaper to drive factoring in all the other expenses but some of them once purchased will last a few trips or more.

Let's cut to the chase - 4/5 people, with a lot of kit, in striking distance of the English Channel, self catering, who want to ski 'driveable' ski resorts.. it almost a no brainer. Go full out with car prep and bobs your uncle. Start to remove each of those factors it becomes ever more marginal.

papajc wrote:
The other factor would be the relative freedom that driving would bring.

Mmmm... the freedom is in getting there in the most efficient way. If that is what you mean then bang on. There is a niche freedom of being able to drive around the vicinity but in most cases that is anything but.

papajc wrote:
I've driven into france a couple of times to go camping so i've already got most if not all the mandatory stuff.

What mandatory stuff are we talking about here?


I may be reading it wrong as type can come across wrong but your reply appears quite condescending!

My original reply might not have included enough info for you but I'll take this time to reassure you I'm old enough and wise enough to listen to (read) the advice, weigh up the pros and cons including the financial implications and make an informed decision on the best way to get my family and I to the glorious snow

It wasn't meant to be condascending. More of case of trying to distill down the discussion and decision making on whether driving is the way to go.
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@Jonny996, grief I made a resolution to stay away from winter tyre discussions...but...temptation too great...

1 I use a tyre tree - German - and the spare wheel set takes up only a little room
2 I stick with VAG - which gives me a choice of VW, Skoda, Audi and SEAT - many use 205 55 16 or can use them as winters - done.

Bit restrictive but fine....
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Anyone anal about their alloys might be upset about the impact of chains at times
I have cheap and nasty plastic pretending alloys so don't GAF!
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pam w wrote:
Anyone anal about their alloys might be upset about the impact of chains at times

You've met my wife then.
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pam w wrote:
Anyone anal about their alloys might be upset about the impact of chains at times
I have cheap and nasty plastic pretending alloys so don't GAF!


I got the cheap rims with plastic covers on my winter tyres for that reason. I've seen the damage some chains can do to the alloys and thought I would avoid that. I've used the chains 3 times this season and the scratches on the cheap plastic covers doesn't worry me one bit.
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This is my storage solution, about £12 off eBay for four wall brackets. They have a rubber strip along to top so as not to scratch the wheel hub.



These are the more expensive ones as they've got two, rather than just one wall bolts per bracket. Clearly, not much use if you don't have a garage or access to one, but even if you're borrowing space an improvement on leaving them on the floor. Although you could perhaps fit them up your stairwell if you have one and convince people it's some sort of metropolitan elite retro-style décor ....
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
boredsurfin wrote:
Carrying Chains will be compulsory in French Alps from next season so I guess these threads will be shorter next winter Toofy Grin


Wishful thinking! It speaks volumes that snowheaders can post in a thread about driving and still feel the need to make their opinion clear on helmets and rucksacks!

I've only driven once, and that was last week from Geneva to La Plagne, so don't have a great deal to add. What I would say though is that I was very impressed by how good the hire car felt on the winter tyres it had (didn't think to check the make). Despite this I was glad that we had chains in the boot and had practiced putting them on the car before leaving the car park at GVA. The other thing was that I needn't have been so worried! Although the trip took a silly amount of time (believe it was about 6 hours, without stops, due to traffic) it was actually fairly chill. I did get quite nervous at the bottom of the mountain (not knowing if or when we should stop for chains) but in retrospect it wasn't really a big deal. Part of that though was because the weather was actually fairly warm so there wasn't much ice on the road.

I'm unlikely to ever drive the whole way (I don't have a family to cart about and it'll take 4-5 hours of driving just to get to the tunnel), but if I was going to then I'd probably opt for a spare set of steelies with winter tyres and chains in the boot. I'd try and spread the cost a bit though as it can be quite a big initial outlay.
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We run two diesel vehicles year round in the Alps. The only bit of additional advice I'd offer that I haven't seen mentioned already (admittedly my attention may have wandered) is keep your fuel tank nearly full if temperatures are plummeting. According to local guidance, waxing is far more likely if your tank is near empty.
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Jonny996 wrote:
i agree that winters & chains is the best way to go BUT lets not kid ourselves that we can divide the cost by 5 years. I change my car every 2 years & the chance of the kit fitting the next car is very slim.


If the car is private then you are used to losing a lot in depreciation, winters and chains will be a small additional cost.
If you normally go for AWD then go for 2WD with winters or allseasons instead as that will perform much better than AWD & summers in the winter.
If it's a company car see if you can get them to put all seasons on it when new then you only have the cost of the chains.
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@LaForet, Never seen such a tidy garage, you put mine to shame! Laughing You even polish your spare set too, or so it looks..............mine get a cursory jet wash with the Karcher then stacked, no such luxury as wall hangers in my garage!
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Layne wrote:
papajc wrote:
Layne wrote:
papajc wrote:
My motivation for driving would to some degree be financial, however i am aware it might not necessarily be cheaper to drive factoring in all the other expenses but some of them once purchased will last a few trips or more.

Let's cut to the chase - 4/5 people, with a lot of kit, in striking distance of the English Channel, self catering, who want to ski 'driveable' ski resorts.. it almost a no brainer. Go full out with car prep and bobs your uncle. Start to remove each of those factors it becomes ever more marginal.

papajc wrote:
The other factor would be the relative freedom that driving would bring.

Mmmm... the freedom is in getting there in the most efficient way. If that is what you mean then bang on. There is a niche freedom of being able to drive around the vicinity but in most cases that is anything but.

papajc wrote:
I've driven into france a couple of times to go camping so i've already got most if not all the mandatory stuff.

What mandatory stuff are we talking about here?


I may be reading it wrong as type can come across wrong but your reply appears quite condescending!

My original reply might not have included enough info for you but I'll take this time to reassure you I'm old enough and wise enough to listen to (read) the advice, weigh up the pros and cons including the financial implications and make an informed decision on the best way to get my family and I to the glorious snow

It wasn't meant to be condascending. More of case of trying to distill down the discussion and decision making on whether driving is the way to go.


Then I apologise. Embarassed

The mandatory stuff would be hi vis jackets, bulbs, breathalysers(not sure if these are still mandatory but there in there any way), triangles, sticker things to change my headlights (these are all for driving in France.)

My main reason for posting this thread was that I thought it was a different option to flying. I know a lot of people do it and wanted to have a lot of advice on the pros and cons in order to make an informed choice.

As i said initially, i'm considering it, so i need good advice to know what the extra expenses are and whether the initial financial cost is offset by the gains (potentially 2 extra days on quiet slopes is a big plus for me).

Driving i think may open other options than i would choose if i always flew. For a start i hadn't even considered Germany or Austria before i started researching driving to resort.
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Do not under any circumstances decide to use the Eurotunnel. I was returning from a week in Les Arcs obn Saturday and would have ended up with a minimum 7 hour delay because of the ineptitude of those berks. Fortunately I managed to find an alternative by using P&O but it still took eurotunnel over an hour to let us out of their compound, meaning we nearly missed alterntive ferry we booked.
Honestly the place was like some sort of horror movie, toilets overflowing, children wailing, shops running out of food and drink and perople who had been stuck in cars for long journeys then being told about long delays roaming around like the walking dead.
The staff were simply unable to cope with the situation and were telling people that the delays would come down, however by the time we left they were still increasing. Utter shambles!
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@wills_h, bug fan of Eurotunnel, but they have bad times when it all goes wrong. Thankfully have managed to miss the worst.

Ferries are not immune, only couple of weeks earlier Calais was closed due to high winds leading to huge delays. Quick google you will find people stuck on ferry for hours as they couldn't dock at Dover. Then there are the strikes etc which don't effect tunnel.

As for people only just being told after long journey - every time I travel with them I've received a txt prior to journey letting me know the current situation Puzzled They also have a very good twitter feed so not too difficult to check.

When it goes wrong, it does seem to go wrong in spectacular fashion I agree.
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@Boris, oh of course all of the channel crossings have their faults and issues but this was by far and away the worst I’ve ever seen. There were no text messages announcing delays. In fact we checked their website before arriving as were worried about queues to get into the terminal. The website said all was running without a problem and even the woman when we checked in said there were no issues, however when we reached the terminal building it was like the apocalypse. I’m currently struggling with their customer services (or lack there of) department to get a refund. Which if they agree to one will take up to 28 days. The problem is there is no regulatory body for the eurotunnel. Honestly unless there is no other option and I include pedalo in this, eurotunnel will never see another penny from me!
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@wills_h, Can understand that

From memory (I follow them on Twitter) the delays were as a result of a train breaking down in tunnel, leading to huge knock on impacts, which given the peak period escalated quickly. They do seem to struggle to cope when it goes pear-shaped there is no doubt about it.

Unfortunately they really need to replace their rolling stock, but don't have the funds to do it.

Have Eurotunnel booked at Easter and Ferry booked for summer!
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I've usually found Eurotunnel fine but I don't travel at peak times. Currently stopped to eat south of Lyon. I drive to and from the Alps a lot and generally enjoy it. I drive alone so I can pick music or audiobooks and decide when to stop. Adding people adds problems!! Especially if they're kids. When my kids were little they much preferred to fly.
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@wills_h, Best fly via Chambery in future Toofy Grin
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Quote:

Adding people adds problems!


Not as much as leaving them at home!
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
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When the old man does his summer trip he always uses ferries over tunnel. Mostly because of the price but also because it actually works pretty good for travelling. Set off early from Exeter and takes about 5 hours to get to Dove, which coincides nicely with lunch time and the chance for a break. Have a meal and then settle in for a good few hours drive on the other side before finding a hotel. Although I guess it's much easier because he's not on a schedule to get anywhere in a hurry.

@boredsurfin, Laughing
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papajc wrote:
Then I apologise. Embarassed

No problem. Like you say it happens with this type of communication.

papajc wrote:
The mandatory stuff would be hi vis jackets, bulbs, breathalysers(not sure if these are still mandatory but there in there any way), triangles, sticker things to change my headlights (these are all for driving in France.)

If you have your own skis/boards/sledges then a roofbox is the best option. That can be quite a commitment to buy for a first timer. Though you can hire or even have them in the car as one off. Or perhaps borrow one. I did that once or twice.

papajc wrote:
As i said initially, i'm considering it, so i need good advice to know what the extra expenses are and whether the initial financial cost is offset by the gains (potentially 2 extra days on quiet slopes is a big plus for me).

The extra two days are one of the biggest draws for me. Another is being able to pack at one end and unpack the other. Financially I'm not sure there is much in it. Although if you use Tesco vouchers for tunnel/ferry, have an economical car. etc it can help. If you go all in winter tyres, chains, roofbox, etc. those up front costs are absorbed over time.

papajc wrote:
Driving i think may open other options than i would choose if i always flew. For a start i hadn't even considered Germany or Austria before i started researching driving to resort.

I would expect it to be the other way round in the sense of certain parts of Austria and Italy are stretching the driveability. One of things that we have found useful is the ability to add on bits. So a couple of Christmas trips we then went on to drive to southern Germany (wifes parents) for new year and then drove back from there. Coming back on an extended Christmas or Easter bank holiday we've done Paris, Reims and Chartres on the way back.
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I've had occasional bad uns with both ferry and tunnel. You pays your money and makes your choice.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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For the OP, when we switched from flying to driving for the family ski trip, we hired a roofbox and chains initially. Once I started buying my own car (as opposed to a company lease one) I bit the bullet and got winters and chains along with the new car. Sometimes, I've had to store the unused set, sometimes (BMW) the dealer has stored them. I wish I'd gone for the more expensive chains sooner (like my current Spikes Spider Easy Alpines) because they would have been more transferable to a new car.

We tried both ferries and Eurotunnel and yes, we had some really bad experiences with Eurotunnel, but normally, the convenience outweighs the risk of delays. Outbound, with the Tunnel, you come off at M2 way ahead of Dover/Folkestone and the docks. Similarly, it seems easier at Coquelles. But yes, we've probably had four really bad delays in 10 years of using the Tunnel in winter and summer. But the same applies with the ferry and definitely we've had far, far, far more problems flying than driving.

We still fly-drive when we go over to our apartment for a Long Weekend, although sometimes we fly-train-bus for a week's trip - with skiing, you're hiring a car that just sits in the garage all week, so it can be cheaper and more convenient to use public transport.

I hate airport transfers. Some of our worst holiday experiences have been with TO transfers, when things start to go wrong. We've also had no-show minibuses and on a group holiday, waiting for hours for someone who's been delayed.

We quickly moved to having an overnight stop outbound and made this part of the holiday, rather than a budget inconvenience. And looked forwards to the first night being a nice family dinner in a restaurant. Now, we also stop on the way back, but we have more time as it's just me and my wife. Once the kids were 18+ they were able to share the driving and we tried a few trips with a continuous drive but while this works OK in the summer, it really wasn't so good in the winter: you can't stop for a nap unless you run the engine. And an 18-year-old driving your 3L twin-scroll turbo 6-cyl BMW for the first time ("Wow! This is so fast .... !') can be unnerving.

So overall, driving is our preference and if Eurotunnel screws-up then that's just the least worst option. On top of all the other recommendations, like all family holidays, have a protocol for places like service stations: don't leave tablets/mobiles lying in full view; put the passports buried away somewhere so there's no chance of them being taken, dropped on the tarmac, etc. Don't lose the toll ticket. Consider splitting money and cards between you and your partner (so that if one of you loses a wallet/purse the other's cards are still valid) etc.
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An excellent post from LaForet. Totally concurs with my experiences except the overnight stop - though I totally understand it works better for some.
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@LaForet, Great post and vey informative. We hope to be taking delivery of our apartment in Chatel by Easter and suspect will be embarking on similar travel and skiing experiences as you have had with your family other time. We have 3 and 6YO children and look forward to road trips to the mountains which I think/hope is a great way to bring our family together, especially as they grow up in this digital age (until they no longer want to hang out with their parents).
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@Ozboy, I think you could learn a lot from @LaForet, post. for me it brings 2 things. when my kids were young I was always worried about them annoying other passengers, in the car that goes away & if you are getting your own place there is always something to take over, so the car work better for that.
Hope you get your new place while the slopes are still open.
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Am on Euotunnel. Arrived early fir my booked 1616 crossing. Put on 1450. No extra charge. Drove straight onto train. Makes up for huge delays when I crossed in early December. The night if the storm which closed Calais harbour when a P&O ferry ran aground!
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pam w wrote:
Am on Euotunnel. Arrived early fir my booked 1616 crossing. Put on 1450. No extra charge. Drove straight onto train. Makes up for huge delays when I crossed in early December. The night if the storm which closed Calais harbour when a P&O ferry ran aground!

You gotta say when the tunnel is running smoothly and/or off peak it's great. I guess the thing is there is only one tunnel but there are many ferry lanes so if a train breaks down.... for example.
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You know it makes sense.
In 15 years I've had only 2 significant problems with thetinnel. Several trips a year - many free with Tesco vouchers. But I don't travel at peak times. Price has certainly gone up.
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We had become quite anti the tunnel after a few problems on attempts to use it, but we have done a return trip and a single over to France since 11th December and it has all gone smoothly, even the return on 23 December when the queues looked a bit dire and we thought ‘oh no’ but in the event we were only delayed by 30 minutes. I do find that taking the dog is easier from a checking in point of view as the P&O bod at Calais passes over the scanner, we get it to buzz on her neck and the paperwork is completed. Slightly longer process on the tunnel. So at the moment we appear to favour the tunnel in the winter with shorter daylight hours, and the ferry in the summer.
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@Layne, Oddly I find it is off peak such as the early hours of the morning when I have had the most disruption. I wait on average on 1 - 2 hours at the service sation waiting for my delayed train. I think when it is very quiet they wait until they have a train load before going or do some engineering work. My wife, who used to use the tunnel a lot in the middle of the day, said there were rarely any delays at that time of day.

I am much more relaxed about it now and expect it to take 2-3 hours from entering the slip road to leaving the slip road. Now I expect that I don't get so wound up.
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Rather sit in a queue for the tunnel than run the risk of blowing chunks on a ferry in a force 8 at this time of year! Have a sneaking suspicion that if you don't have a +1.85m vehicle or a roofbox you will experience fewer delays. Just a theory...
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Mine is +1.85 with the ski racks. Never understood how all that works. The passage through the various aisles at Calais yesterday was particularly baffling.
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@pam w On booking recently (with roofbox) it was suggesting that I would have to travel at about 2am as there was no availability at a more humane hour. On a whim I changed the booking (no roofbox) and hey presto there was availability on every train. There's obvs more bigger 4x4s and roofboxes doing the Alps rally at half term than cars. Not sure the kids will appreciate travelling back sandwiched between crates of vino collapso but that's the trade off wink
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Less that 1.85m you're on the double decker carriages, anything more you're in with the coaches. They seem fairly relaxed when quite, but at peak periods you better have booked overheight if you are!
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I also carry jump leads _ have never yet needed them, but a flat battery would not be the ideal start to your journey home
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@Spin Doctor,
Quote:

Rather sit in a queue for the tunnel than run the risk of blowing chunks on a ferry in a force 8 at this time of year!

Actually, the overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Caen is quite a good option for anyone travelling from west of London to the French or western Swiss Alps, even at this time of year. I've regularly done this trip, and, lying flat in a bunk, haven't been bothered by the ship rolling a bit. This ferry gets you on the road south in France at a nice early hour, and the driving time to the Alps is very similar to going via Calais.
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@Julian T, but the price..............
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virtually a millpond at christmas. ever so fractionally wobbly near calais (there's some odd wave feature there presumably caused by the geography), but not really any more wobbly than the car rocking on its suspension.
100euros well saved imho.
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@vaughan, me to - after having a flat battery when we came to come home. Thankfully a friendly taxi driver jump started us
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