Driving To The Alps – Is It Better Than Flying?

January 7, 2011

With a new born baby, I was in two minds as to how to go about travelling to the Alps this Christmas. It didn’t take long to make the decision once I realised how much gear we had to take and how little allowance we would have with the airlines. I travel at least once every two weeks to the Alps, but on this occasion having the freedom to stuff my car to the limit was very appealing (plus it would also allow me to bring back lots of great olive oil and Aosta Valley wines!). What’s more, I quite like driving – it gives me time to think, de-stress, and rediscover some tunes on my iPod. Steely Dan, The Eagles, JJ Cale, Led Zeppelin and – if fatigue sets in at any point –  AC/DC, until there is a family revolution and the baby Einstein music comes back on!

A good day to travel is Sunday. Not only will you avoid the busy French changeover of Saturday, you’ll also find that lorry travel is restricted, leaving you to cruise down deserted motorways. As for the journey itself, there are really two ways of doing it right. You could take a 9am Channel Tunnel crossing and do the whole drive in one go. Within 35 minutes of leaving the UK you’re in Calais, where most ski resorts within reach of Geneva (Chamonix, Verbier, 3 Valleys, Val d’Isere etc) are an eight to ten hour drive.

In my case, I was heading for a ski holiday in Courmayeur on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc. A straight eight-hour slog from the Eurotunnel, and we were in resort in time for an aperitivo and dinner. I wouldn’t expect to have done the journey much more than three hours quicker by plane, and who says my flight would have been on time? Alternatively, you could take slightly more relaxed approach. Get yourself a copy of the Relais and Chateaux Guide, and wind your way down to the Alps via a couple of nice restaurants and a hotel.

Driving isn’t for everyone. Those who should consider it are families with lots of gear and those who want to enjoy the flexibility of departure times. What’s more, having a car will give you the freedom to explore nearby Italy skiing areas on the down days. Chaos at airports over December let me extremely glad that I decided to drive.

Car choice was important with all the snow, so I took the Ford Kuga. Whilst it’s compact enough to drive and park around Fulham (without getting accused of driving a Chelsea tractor), its 4×4 function handled the snow drifts with ease.

Was it cheaper than flying? With two full tanks of diesel (£120) each way, a Eurotunnel crossing (£120), and numerous motorway tolls including the Mont Blanc Tunnel (£121), I was left around £602 out of pocket. When you consider the £970 that four flights and 7 day car hire would have cost (and a lot more over half term), it’s no wonder that driving to the Alps for a ski weekend is an increasingly popular option for British skiers and snowboarders.

Amin Momen

Amin Momen