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Alps driving recommendations

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all, will be driving to the Alps this winter, all being well.
Can I get some resort recommendations, two experienced adults so plenty of terrain, least driving distance. Not too worried re resort, maybe a few bars etc.

Thanks
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Chatel is the closest alpine resort to Calais, easy drive, lots of terrain and skiing in France and Switzerland.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Cheers Lee will investigate
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@Lee Shaw, Chamonix is quicker to get to. Not convinced Les Gets isn’t quicker either. Or Les Carroz.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
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I'd have thought any of the Northern French Alps are pretty similar distance; Portes du Soleil, Grand Massif, Chamonix as well as the smaller resorts to the sout of the A26.

That said, driving to the Mid Alps, Trois Valleys, Paradiski, Espace Killy is eqaully easy as pretty much motorway all the way.

To be really fair the Southern Alps (Les Deux Alpes, Alpe d'Huez) are quite easy too.

It's much easier to drive a long distance in France than the UK, unless you're unlucky an extra 100 miles will only take you an extra hour and half tops!

My point is, choose your resort and then plan your route.
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Les Gets, Morzine. Whole of the Portes du Soleil to play in. Loads of places to stay. 8 hours drive from Calais (out of half term dates). Easy drive. If you have a car you could also take a day out to ski Samoens, or ski there and take a day out in Les Gets.
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@marcellus, yeah, you're right, hadn't thought that way, what difference extra 20 mins on an 8 (?) hour drive?

Would say, as biased (and a long term PdS fan) that for experienced skiers, Chamonix is worth at least a visit, being iconic and all ...
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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!
@stunshot, Or drive down through Belgium and Germany to Austria, couple of hours longer driving and no tolls, lots of great skiing in Salzburg area, easy to drive to, German roads are excellent, so long as you keep your wits about you. Belgium motorways awful but you're not on them for long period.
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@under a new name, Good to have a car in Cham also, those buses aren't the easiest to suss out, and a day trip to Courmayeur is a good bonus.
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Like@under a new name, says, Cham is great if you have transport as you can get to all the different areas easily without having to rely on the busses.
Most of the PdS is joined up nowadays apart from Abondance, Cret-Beni, Torgon (since they decommissioned the chairs 4 years ago) and the St Jean- Roc Of Hell circuit.
Grand Massif also super easy to get to, and the big-ass car park in Samoens at the Gd Massif lift makes that attractive if you want to stay in a Village rather than a purpose-bulit resort.
What you haven't said is when in the Winter you are planning on going as this can have a big impact on whats open, how busy it is, how easy it is to park etc... and these are all factors which can play into how enjoyable your holiday is.
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Cheers everyone food for thought..
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Early Jan is planned
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Also prefer to drive and then leave car until return home , so somewhere with local lifts
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
If you want to not drive during the week don't go to Cham.
Be aware that in France if you drive the tolls are pretty expensive, and if you go to the higher ski stations there is not normally parking at your accommodation - nearby parking can be quite expensive, circa 80euros for a week.
Austria is a bit further to drive, but no tolls, just a vignette in Austria itself. Austria is also much more geared up for car borne skiers, free parking at accommodation is very common, and free parking at ski lifts at out of town lifts.
These factors mean that driving to Austria is normally slightly cheaper than France, despite being slightly further.
To drive to Austria winter tyres are essential (as well as chains), for France chains are essential, and winter tyres strongly recommended.
My choice for a holiday would be to drive to drive to one of the better connected areas in Salzburger Superski - maybe Flachau or Wagrain, ski locally or just take the bus to Kleinarl/Flachauwinkel/Zauchensee, and perhaps have one day out driving to perhaps the Gastien Valley, or Obertauern.
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@stunshot, we are driving to Grand Massif in Jan - done it a few times and its a very easy drive, but probably not somewhere you'd just park the car up for the week and a bit quiet on the bars front - we are heading there this year as we think the whole bar scene will be different anyway. We have driven down to Val D'isere a few times too - about an hour to hour and a half longer, but still an easy drive really and that would tick your "park it up" and "bars" boxes.

@Markymark29, I'd never really considered that drive - food for thought!!
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
stunshot wrote:
Also prefer to drive and then leave car until return home , so somewhere with local lifts

I know its not very imaginative, but I'd go to Morzine in that case.
Les Gets is ok, but at the end of the Pds so its a schlepp to get anywhere, Morzine and Chatel are in the centre.
If you've not driven before, the Pas De Morgins ( for Chatel ) can put people off as its a pass, but in reality its normally very well cleared ( especially by all the Belgium cars in Jan). Morzine is easily accessible from two directions (Taninges or Thonon) neither requires a pass.
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La Clusaz & Le Grand Bornand are one of the shortest drives
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I have stayed in Taninges for a week. Cheap accomodation and with a car you explore the Grande Massif, Portes du Soleil, smaller resorts of Praz de Lys, St Jean D'Aupes and others if you're feeling adventurous. Chamonix is close enough to drive to for a day out as well.
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If you drive, it's well worth thinking about having a longer, and/or rather different, holiday. The journey is quite an investment of time and energy, and (for two people) expensive. In early January renting an apartment is cheap (I'm talking France, but presumably similar in Austria). You can take a lot of food with you, including pre-cooked and pre-planned meals to cut down on costs. Lift passes are the major additional expenditure for a two week holiday, but if the budget is tight, why not think about having some days off, responding to conditions and the state of your leg muscles? Most resorts have lots of other things to do - spas, snow-shoeing, walking, etc. Buying lift passes ad hoc is not much more expensive than buying 14 days, and some resorts will give you the option of flexible passes.

Saturday travel, to any of the major Alpine regions, will be busy. If you rent an apartment for two weeks that gives some flexibility both ends - for example to travel to your accommodation on a Monday (having started the journey on Sunday).

If you are staying in a hotel on half board then obviously a two -week holiday will cost a LOT more.
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Take your pick:

http://warringtonbears.org.uk/snowheads/GuideNeige2015.pdf

That guide is a bit out of date (but not much) and details all the resorts in France that you're likely to be looking at.

If you're taking a car then I'd recommend exploring a bit by staying in a valley town and then driving to some smaller resorts nearby. It's a bit of a hassle but opens up the opportunity of finding some exquisite places far from the madding crowd.
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@stunshot

1. Would you do the drive all in one go?
2. Are you OK to share the driving?
3. Would you want/be able to leave after work and drive through the night?
4. Are you taking all your own equipment or hiring at the destination?
5. Would you be prepared to pay a premium for accommodation with its own parking?
6. Are you happy to pay the French tolls to shorten the journey time?
7. Would you reconsider driving each day if it significantly reduced the accommodation costs?
8. Can you travel on a weekday rather than Friday night/saturday, or are you limited to Weekend travel?
9. Be prepared for one of you to have to do all the driving if the other is injured.
10. If self-catering, are you prepared to pay a bit more for a 1-bed apt vs a studio with bed-settee?

These and related criteria help narrow-down the very broad choice of places to drive to. As it is, you're going to get quite a long list of places, based on personal preferences.

For example, if you decided to take Friday off work you could take a leisurely drive down, stay somewhere overnight and then leave promptly and be in a wide range of Alpine resorts by lunchtime. Conversely, you might be up for jumping in the car after work Friday, driving overnight, sharing between the drivers and get there the same time.

Outside school holidays, self-catering and hotel accommodation may well be available weekday-to-weekday, usually meaning the ferry/Eurotunnel cost is lower. And the journey itself is less busy. And you avoid the busy Saturday switch-over and hire shop frenzy.

If you're on a budget, self-catering may work out cheaper than a hotel. You can shop in the UK and take most of your supplies down with you. You might buy beer and wine en route at a French supermarché (but not on a Sunday). But for some people, a holiday isn't a holiday if they have to cook.

Some accommodation providers will be quite blasé about parking, telling you that there is 'lots of/nearby public parking available' but not mentioning that it's haphazard in terms of availability, might be quite distant, isn't covered, and may be expensive. Personally, I wouldn't stay anywhere which didn't have it's own client parking reserved for you, and ideally underground/covered.

It all depends. So perhaps worth chatting around the above questions and issues with your partner and sorting-out the logistics first, then you'll be in a better position to search for what will satisfy you both e.g. a friend of mine's partner absolutely refuses to cook on holiday, so self-catering is out. Another friend's partner said she simply wasn't up to doing the drive home by herself if he was injured ... and so on.

Not trying to put you off! Personally, we only fly/drive for long weekends, anything more than that and we Eurotunnel+drive. And that was before Covid-19. When we were younger, we used to do the drive all in one go, overnight, after work on Friday, changing drivers every 2 hours. It worked fine (albeit one of our group had a big company car with comfy seating and loads of luggage space). But once we had the kids we tended to stop overnight. Now with two of us, we always travel on a weekday, and stop overnight somewhere between Troyes and Besançon. We've driven down in one go in the summer and regretted it: just too exhausting, but that's us.

After a few years, and when we switched form a company car to a personal one, I decided it was just sensible to get winter tyres. These have been invaluable at least 25% of the trips. And they're useful in a UK winter anyway. Or perhaps all-seasons. And we've had the SANEF French toll gadget for a few years now and can recommend it, even if it's not busy, it makes life easier. And if you're driving overnight it doesn't need the passenger to wake up to take/pay the ticket. And none of those "Have you got the ticket?" "Err, no, you had it, I thought?" "No, I handed it to you." "No, but you were the passenger, so where is it?" conversations ....


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Wed 10-06-20 20:25; edited 13 times in total
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@stunshot, as others have said the world is your oyster and it's more about the hows and whats of driving.

You'll want to "winterise" your car fully.

Search "doofer" on here. Most will say paying the tolls is a given for time reasons.

Ferry is cheaper than tunnel but tunnel is quicker/easier.

Driving overnight gets you 8 days skiing but you need shared drivers and even then it's not for everyone.

You can get free on road parking at the lower resorts.

Lot's to think about but it's a good way of doing things if you have 3-5 travellers and especially if you have your own gear and self cater.
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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!
Quote:

But for some people, a holiday isn't a holiday if they have to cook.

Self-catering accommodation will often still be a BIG saving even if you eat out in the evenings - and you can try a range of restaurants, instead of being stuck with the same hotel dining room. Fixing your own breakfast is not a problem and if your accommodation is sufficiently near the slopes simple, tasty, lunches are within easy reach and will save you a fortune over eating on the mountain.

Having your own choice of tea and coffee, wines, beers and spirits at supermarket prices will also save a lot.
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@pam_w I'm with you. And you tend to get much more private leisure space self-catering versus a hotel.

For the OP, if you do self-cater, make sure the m² is clearly stated. If they don't say what it is, be suspicious that the place is miniscule. Studio lounge bed/settees are fine, but obviously a bit of a hassle. A separate bedroom is much more convenient.


Last edited by You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net. on Wed 10-06-20 11:26; edited 3 times in total
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@stunshot, We enjoy driving to the alps a few times a year as a family of four. However it is not the most economical option for two people and I am wondering what you would gain by driving if you are not planning to use the car once there? Pre kids we used to take the Eurostar ski train and as you are planning to go in January you would probably be able to get train tickets at a reasonable price. You could probably travel first class on the train for the same price as driving!

Leaving aside the above thoughts Les Carroz is one of our favourites and one of the nearest places to get to by car. It is linked to the Grand Massif ski area.

A few thoughts re driving:
Only do it if you are both willing to drive on French motorways and mountain roads in case one of you gets injured skiing.
Worth having winter tyres and chains for a January drive - they are expensive particularly for some SUVs.
You will probably want to do an overnight stop each way which adds to the cost.
On the positive side we like driving because we have our own ski gear which is easier to transport by car. We self cater so like stocking up at a valley supermarket. We usually visit a different resort on the final Saturday.
We have sometimes enjoyed visiting other places in France on the way home..eg Paris.
I would suggest booking through a self drive tour operator to get the eurotunnel flexi plus included. We use Peak Retreats and would highly recommend them.
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Personally I’d settle for some advice about how to survive the Scotland to Folkestone bit. Once you’re over th3 channel it’s a doddle
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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.
Many thanks for the great replies.
We usually fly with a to but a few reasons to drive, post covid, I will be newly retired so can go whenever and may have an all electric by then.
Had anyone driven in an ev ??
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@stunshot, 2000 mile round trip in an ev, you'll need to be organised regards frequent stops, rather you than me.
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 You know it makes sense.
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Grand Massif parking is free at all the locations, and over my 3 weeks of visits, always available. I have scanned, but apologies if I missed same.

CG
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@stunshot, I drive 3 or 4 times a year & it is 1001 miles door to door for me, I do 100% of the driving but we do have an overnight stop at Ashworth.
I did look at the Tesla last year & discussed it with the shinny salesman, he explained that you put destination in sat nav & it does all the calculations for you, it can look ahead & see if there is a supercharger free & if you need it, he stated that most stops would be approx. 40 mins which is ok for Coffee & toilet stop.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
RobinS wrote:
If you want to not drive during the week don't go to Cham.

Austria is a bit further to drive, but no tolls, just a vignette in Austria itself. Austria is also much more geared up for car borne skiers, free parking at accommodation is very common, and free parking at ski lifts at out of town lifts.
These factors mean that driving to Austria is normally slightly cheaper than France, despite being slightly further.


I did a 2 centre 2 week drive to Bad Hofgastein and Wagrain, stopped on the way out at the budget Ibis in Luxembourg, and Ibis near Mons on the way back. It took about an hour longer than when we drove to Samoens, and saved about E120 in tolls. We foolishly forgot to buy the Austrian vignette, but completely by chance we arrived the scenic way so no fine - got the vignette for the final 9 days! With one ski pass for both areas (and many more!) we got in loads of variety and virus-willing, will do similar next year (though maybe Serfaus instead).
And I legally discovered that my car would do just over 130mph!
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There are 4 topics that generate the most response on snowheads: Driving all the way to the ski resorts, specialist winter tyres, helmets (actually helmets have died down a lot recently with those who like wearing them wearing them and those that don't not) and of course which is better Austria or France. @stunshot, your 13th post managed to trigger 3 out of 4 of them. Well done.

We all have our views ranging from those who race down on a Friday night straight afer work in a beatup Fiat Panda and return over night on the Sunday after 9 days skiing, going straight into work, to those who set off on a Saturday spend the night in hotel drive a large 4x4, returning after 5 days skiing. We all do it differently and of course think our way is best. And we love the discussion. Has anyone done the winter trip on a motor bike by the way?

I done it most ways, even driving to the Dolomites for climbing in the summer (and on the Bike a few times). Recently our common way to Les Arcs is to drive to Ashford, stay with a friend over night then drive to the resort the next day. For the return we leave the resort about 11 on the Sunday and just to the whole journey in one go. It takes about 14 to 15 hours. The only reason we stop at Ashford is to try and avoid the worst of the traffic on the M25. As @Matt1959, says most of the hassle is getting to Folkestone. The French motorway system is a doddle after that.

Why not start a discussion on how to get to Ashford easily?
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@johnE, We go via Hull overnight on the P&O to Rotterdam, only time I go near the M25 out of choice is on way back when we've usually caught tunnel back. It's harder and more stressful to get to Folkstone than the whole of the Calais/ resort part.

@Jonny996, That's assuming you dont hit tailbacks, and/ or delays due to bad weather, and there's a charge point available when you want one presumably. Shiny salesman needs a better product and infrastructure before i'm going anywhere near him. wink
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stunshot wrote:
Hi all, will be driving to the Alps this winter, all being well.
Can I get some resort recommendations, two experienced adults so plenty of terrain, least driving distance. Not too worried re resort, maybe a few bars etc.

Thanks


Being newly retired it is time to chuck all preconceptions out of the window.

Changing to driving is a good start.
Portes du Soleil and Grand Massif are great easy drive big area options.

If you are just going for the week then turn it into 8 days skiing. 6:00 a.m. crossing on the Friday will put easily within an hour of these by late afternoon leaving time for supermarket shopping, a leisurely meal and hotel somewhere from Annemasse onwards. A reasonably early breakfast will enable you to be in resort by 9:00 a.m. ready to either collect hire gear or just go skiing if you have your own kit. Check into accomodation late afternoon. When leaving pack and check out on the Saturday morning and then go skiing for the day and then head off about 3:00 or later, drive a couple of hours to a hotel and then a leisurely drive home on the Sunday.

More importantly you can now go for more than one week and the driving costs remain the same. Book your accomodation either through the local tourist offices or the large number of local estate agents (these are usually listed on the tourist office websites). Booking for more than one week can often get you a discount.

Skiing for more than one week opens up the possibility of season passes, for the last few years Grand Massif has had a 50% discount on early booked season passes, last season 525 Euros which gave it a payback time of 13 days, which makes going back for another 2 weeks in March very cheap.

Driving and skiing for more than one week also alters the cost/benefit ratio in favour of owning your own kit massively.
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Even on non-peak Saturdays you can expect traffic in and out of ski areas to be heavy, even without the heavy snow which you hope will be falling as you arrive! It worth thinking about how to avoid the worst of it (which means aiming to arrive in resort either before, or after, the peak 1300 - 1800 window and not leaving between 0800 - 1300. Approx) Arriving and leaving on any day other than Saturday (France) is much preferable.
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If you are driving, then I'd recommend you take a look now to see what the prices and availability of crossings are like. I just booked Jan/Feb 2021 Eurotunnel and as I mentioned on another thread, was surprised that the prices were certainly not being discounted and that our weekday travel dates outside the school holidays were classed as 'very busy'.
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@stunshot, as a few others have said if you've got the car then why not do a 2-centre holiday. I'd probably go for some permutation of Lech/Serfaus/Ischgl and if I was retired and had the time then I'd make the trip down part of the fun. Take a day at Friedrichshafen to see the Bodensee and the Zeppelin museum. Have a day away from skiing in Innsbruck and come back via a day or two in Salzburg or Munich. I'm a couple of years away from retiring so feeling jealous of all the possibilities you've got!
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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Interested in this thread since we plan to drive for the first time once things loosen up. (You will see from my ID we recently committed ourselves to St Gervais, and in fact had been planning to drive over around now). So some information useful to us has been posted.

@Markymark29, do you find the Rotterdam ferry better than the Zeebrugge one? Like you, going via Hull would be easier for us than trekking down the country - but I had assumed the Zeebrugge route would be preferable. And why a different route on return?

@stunshot, I agree with the comment above that you should think about what you are looking for and forming a shortlist before planning the drive bit. Do you want lots of hairy runs in which case Chamonix is obvious, with the internal transport limitations already mentioned? Do you enjoy lots of mileage on intermediate runs in which case various domains are possibilities with Portes de Soleil being the biggest? Or do you simply want to enjoy a reasonable size place where you can get to know the area really well?

For buying we settled on St Gervais, though obviously we had factors not relevant to a single trip. It provides access to over 400 km of mostly intermediate runs in Evolution Mont Blanc, though if you weren't going to use your car you would need to stay centrally and take the local service bus to access Les Contamines on the same lift pass (that's what we do, it is easy enough). StG also has direct access to Les Houches, though that needs a separate day pass. It's not the highest of areas, but that won't worry you in January. As I said we haven't yet driven there other than airport rentals, but it is only 4 miles off the motorway. Parking is free, including some in underground car parks.

It sounds sensible first time to confine your thoughts to the Northern French Alps, since that already gives you lots of choice with shorter drives. If it becomes a habit you could then look further afield. But newly retired you can do what you want (not sure I would add the complication of electric though).
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If I'd retired I'd be going for a t least a month at a time!!!
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Porte du soleil sounds tempting, any village preferred ?
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