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Driving to the Dolomites

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Over the years I have seen many discussions on driving to the Dolomites. Having driven down this summer I thought I would share my experience.

Every summer we go down to the Dolomites for the excellent rock climbing. Normally we fly to Venice and hire a car, but this summer the prices were coming out as far too high. Flights + car hire were about £1200 for our 17 day trip. As a rough estimate driving was to come in at between £500 and £600. And we would have the use of a much larger car and carry perhaps more equipment that just might be needed.

We left home on the Friday morning, took the lunch time ferry. The drive through France via Rheims to Saint Avold along the A4 went well and we spent the night in the L’Europort, a 3* hotel on a large industrial estate. The hotel advertised a restaurant until 21:30. We arrived at 21:00 to find everything closed up. It appears the hotel caters for lorry drivers and workers on the industrial estate, hence no one there on Friday night and a very low price.

Though the drive through France went well things changed dramatically on the Saturday in Germany. The traffic was barely moving on the German motorways (It made the M25 feel like a race track). It appears on a Saturday in August all of northern Europe is heading south through Germany in camper vans and towing caravans. The traffic eased once over the Fern Pass into Austria. From Innsbruck to Cortina went well but the whole journey took over 11 hours. I’m not sure what I would do different next time but in the past we have gone down as far as possible in France then cut across on the Milan to Venice motorway.

We stayed in the hotel Serena in Cortina for a couple of nights. The hotel was fine, but that is all I remember about it. The next day we decided to do a rock climb in the vicinity of the Tre Cima near Misurina. Heading to Misurina was slow, very slow and we were actually turned away at the last minute by the police due the fact that all car parking was full and had been since 8:00 in the morning. In fact the whole of the Dolomites were jammed packed full. There was almost no parking anywhere and all the roads were traffic jams. At this point I wished I was back on my motorbike.
Perhaps going during the week of August 15th was not a good idea.

After 2 days we moved to the Ciclimino hotel in Salle just down the valley from Alleghe. This is a very nice hotel with really friendly proprietors and good food. They have a minibus to take clients to and from the ski lifts during the winter, but otherwise it is a bit inconvenient for a skiing holiday but my friends are heading back there for a ski holiday next winter, it’s such a nice hotel.

Driving around the Dolomites for the climbs is always hard work. Most days would involve at least a trip over either the Falzarago, Giau or Fedaia passes. The abundance of camper vans and slow Italian drivers made it a frustrating experience. Sometimes I thought the cyclist (of which there were hundreds) would overtake us going up the hills. They did on the way down.

Though we there for the rock climbing, which IMHO is the best in the world we did look at the skiing areas. One day we climbed the Sass Bece above the Pordoi and looked down on the meadows that make up the ski area. It looked a really pleasant blue piste area readily accessible from the White Wolf hotel.

After about 10 days we left the Ciclimino and went over to Wolkenstein in Gröden tal. Though a really sprawling town with long walks involved I quite liked the place. We stayed in the Edda hotel at Plan. Like the Ciclimino this was a good hotel. Though the valley advertises a bus service the timetable was not kept to and they stopped about 18:00 at night. I imagine that during the ski season ski busses would supplement the regular service. I wouldn’t mind coming back for a ski holiday.

The journey back went very well. This time the L’Europort was busier and we were able to get an evening meal. As a bonus we arrived at Calais at 11:00 and were on the ferry for a 11:35 sailing.

Overall the journey went well and I would seriously consider driving for a winter sport holiday.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Interesting report @johnE, . Thank you. We too have only done that run in the summer, and whilst towing the caravan too. But basically you are talking about two long days drive to get there? Its a beautiful area in summer and I`d imagine it is in winter too!
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
We drove virtually non-stop from the north-west to Madonna di Campiglio in 2016. This was at half term but we were there for 2 weeks. It took about 26 hours door to door and we rotated 3 drivers in turn. It sounds like we followed a roughly similar route and we also encountered very slow traffic and hold-ups south of Stuttgart. (much of this caused by roadworks). Also slow going over the Fern Pass but after recent fresh snowfall it was a very scenic drive. On to Innsbruck and over the Brenner into Italy.

We could have saved a couple of hours using the Tunnel rather than the ferry but it gave a chance to grab some food en-route. After the first week we had to drop my son and d.i.law off at Milan Bergamo airport for flights home.

After chatting with a couple of coach drivers we revised our return journey. We set off towards Milan and then up through Switzerland and on towards Luxenburg. Filled with cheap diesel then on towards Namur, through Belgium and back to Calais.

This proved to be a quicker and cheaper alternative. Purchased the Carnet at the Swiss border, (30 odd Euros from memory) then very little else in terms of tolls until back in France.

I can't imagine it's worth doing this journey for anything less than two weeks. We enjoyed it and it gave us great flexibility without huge expense for four adults.
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Quote:

We could have saved a couple of hours using the Tunnel rather than the ferry

My experience is that the tunnel is not much if any quicker than the ferry once you factor in the inevitable delay, which for me this is usually about 1:30 to 2:00 hours.

Quote:

We set off towards Milan and then up through Switzerland and on towards Luxenburg. Filled with cheap diesel then on towards Namur, through Belgium and back to Calais.


Personally I will head from Stasbourg and ontothe French motorways which I find a much quicker and easier drive.

Incidently we did notice diesel is 20 cents per litre cheeper in Austria than Italy
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I've only been around that region on the motorbike but the climbing looked amazing. Maybe I can persuade Kooky to try a few routes that way.
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You'll need to Register first of course.
Plenty of cheap Venice flights and car hire in the winter, so no need to drive all that way!! Shocked

I've just booked flights to Marco Polo from Gatwick with Sleazyjet for a 5-night break around Feb half-term for £50-ish return and hired a compact car for the 5 days for £82. 3* B&B for £21pppnt 6 miles from Cortina and we're all set! Very Happy
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@Scarpa, My first trips to the Dolomites were also by motorbike. Initailly we went to do the via ferratta having seen some staggering pictures in Climber and Rambler magazine circa late 70s. The rock climbing looked, to be honest, terrifying with huge, steep almost featureless walls. However with lots of guide books and an experienced friend we discovered that there were actually lots of fairly easy (Grade III and IV) climbs we could do and enjoy. Those featureless walls often turned out to be full of jug handles. It is magnificent. Give it a go.

On one trip we actually rode I bikes back from Cortina to Birmingham in 2 days. 600 miles on a motorbike in one day avoiding toll toads was quite tiring.

@luigi, We normally fly, but this year the length of the trip and the overall cost was just too much. I never skied in the Dolomites but I am contemplating a trip for a few days this winter.
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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!
luigi wrote:
Plenty of cheap Venice flights and car hire in the winter, so no need to drive all that way!! Shocked

I've just booked flights to Marco Polo from Gatwick with Sleazyjet for a 5-night break around Feb half-term for £50-ish return and hired a compact car for the 5 days for £82. 3* B&B for £21pppnt 6 miles from Cortina and we're all set! Very Happy


Stansted Treviso even cheaper - and nearer...
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Quote:

Stansted Treviso even cheaper - and nearer..

Standsted is indeed a bit nearer, but still the back end of beyond
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
Depends where you live, I guess. For North London and East Anglia it's by far the most convenient
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
cameronphillips2000 wrote:
luigi wrote:
Plenty of cheap Venice flights and car hire in the winter, so no need to drive all that way!! Shocked

I've just booked flights to Marco Polo from Gatwick with Sleazyjet for a 5-night break around Feb half-term for £50-ish return and hired a compact car for the 5 days for £82. 3* B&B for £21pppnt 6 miles from Cortina and we're all set! Very Happy


Stansted Treviso even cheaper - and nearer...


Ruinair was more expensive when I looked and they want a fortune for hold baggage (£60 vs Sleazyjet's £33). Their latest wheeze is to not let you check-in until 24 hrs before departure unless you pay the extra fee to choose your seats! So Stelios gets my business this time!

Last year Alitalia from London City to Milan was the best option and they allow a ski/snowboard bag included as your piece of hold luggage which was handy as it saved a bit on hire charges for me and my B-in-law was keen to take his own snowboard.

Obviously when choosing flights, there are many considerations apart from the bare costs: timings, access convenience, transfer times & costs, baggage fees, airport parking costs, etc. All must be weighed and the different options will suit different folks.
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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.
We hired a car from Innsbruck for a week’s stay in the Dolomites last September (2016). The journey down the A13/A22 across the Brenner was horrific!! Accidents, tolls, road-works and heavy traffic, doubled the estimated driving time. If I do it again, I’ll fly to Verona and drive up and access the Dolomites via Ponte Gardena.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Depends on time of day. Usually pretty clear in the morning. But I have seen 13km tailback going the other way. And people a few hours behind me arriving more than several hours later. I tend to leave Innsbruck to be at the Arabba ticket desk by noon, and leave Arabba for Innsbruck about 4pm.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I actually enjoy the drive to Corvara. Leave Nottingham early hours, tunnel, through to Luxemborg (via Belgium) get some cheap fuel, stop for lunch, over into Germany and get a stop over near Stuttgart, takes approx 12-13 hours with stop off. Next day, we can make Corvara in about 5-6hours via Garmisch, drop down into Innsbruck and onwards via Brennen pass. Have done this for the past 2 seasons but have found an issue on the Autobahn stretch from Karlsruhe to Stuggart and onwards to Munich, as we have always left on Friday and hit this stretch at about 4pm....seems like we are back on the M25 as traffic is horrendous. This year, plan to stop around Karlsruhe area and then head off on Saturday with a bit longer session.

Fuel is cheaper in Luxemborg, was 80cent a litre for Diesel in March, and agree with previous comments, fuel cheaper in Austria than Italy. I find that I can take all our gear (3 of us) which makes it cheaper, more convienient and can also bring back some Grappa! This year think we will head over the Fern Pass as never ventured that way before...
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Karlsruhe-Pforzheim-Stuttgart can be chokka in the evenings. I tend to hit that around 7pm.

I'd leave Karlsruhe early if driving Saturday am.

I tend to get to past Munich or to Innsbruck by midnight Friday, or leave Frankfurt at something like 5am and then have breakfast somewhere around Ulm or Basel depending on my intended destination (Austria or Switzerland). All the traffic at that hour are the Dutch that have been driving down the A3/A5 thru the night.

Ignore the Satnav if it tells you to take the shortcut thru Ulm. Stay on A8 and join A7 at the A8/A7 interchange.

I've not checked where they;re doing roadworks yet this year.
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