Driving to skiing holidays is becoming increasingly popular with British holidaymakers. The majority of the main European winter sport destinations are between eight and 12 hours’ drive from the channel coast. With Eurotunnel and the cross Channel ferries in competition, prices are reasonable, especially compared with air fares, and fuel abroad is slightly cheaper than the UK. For families travelling with a lot of ski equipment, taking the car is a relatively cost-effective and practical option.
However, there are some precautions to take. You will (hopefully) be driving to somewhere a lot colder than in the UK. In addition, your car will be travelling a long way, probably the best part of 2000 miles. It’s worth having your car serviced, or at least inspected thoroughly, before you go.
Free vehicle inspection for driving in winter weather
Many car companies now offer customers a free health check for their car to make sure it’s fit for the winter weather. Cold weather takes its toll on the car’s lubrication and battery so make sure yours are in tip top condition before you leave home. A service or health check should also ensure there’s sufficient anti-freeze in the cooling system.
When you get to your resort, try to park your car in a covered garage. And check it half way through your holiday. That way if it doesn’t start you can get it rectified without the additional pressure of missing your Channel crossing.
Although the Europeans are very diligent about ploughing and gritting the roads around ski resorts, sudden falls of snow can frequently turn the tarmac into a skating rink. Winter tyres are a worthwhile investment – and are required by law in Austria, Germany and some parts of Italy. They give good grip when the temperature drops below 7 degrees C so they’re useful in the UK too.
Carry snow chains for driving in the Alps
You also need snow chains (it’s the law to carry them in parts of the Alps) and don’t forget heavy duty gloves for mounting them. It’s worthwhile practicing putting them on at home. Fitting them in a layby in the dark while it’s snowing will be hard enough if you know what you’re doing. If you’ve never done it before it’ll be a real struggle. Once they’re on, travel 10m or so, then get out and inspect them to ensure they’re still firmly attached. Also, don’t forget to carry a warning triangle, reflective jacket, shovel and tow rope too, as well as a windscreen scraper and de-icer.
In addition to insurance for the vehicle and European breakdown cover, consider what will happen if there’s only one driver and they’re incapacitated in an accident on the slopes. Make sure your insurance includes repatriating the car. Sam Jackson, Green Flag’s rescue claims operations manager said: “Breaking down or having a car that can’t be driven in a foreign country where you might not speak the language and you’re possibly some distance from home isn’t a welcome thought. Every breakdown abroad is different; there is never a standard incident because everyone’s intentions, plans and passenger requirements are different. Green Flag offers local knowledge, expert care and a network that looks after travel, accommodation and recovery. We pride ourselves on recognising that it’s the customer’s destination that is important ‘no matter what’.”
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