Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Drive to the Alps for a long weekend?

I'm a self confessed fan of driving to the Alps for ski trips and I was singing the praises of it way before Clarkson made it famous in his race to Verbier when he beat Hammond and May who took the plane.

To me, it's always made a lot of sense because the is an endless amount of general pricking about that goes on with air travel. The way I see it, you have an hour journey to whatever airport you go to, two hours check in, two hours in the air, another hour in the airport and then a two to three hour transfer to the resort. In total then, with no delays it is at best a nine hour trip and you still won't be able to get there early enough to ski in the afternoon.

Now I'm not saying that the car is quicker but consider the benefits. You are in the comfort of your own space for the entire journey, it can be significantly cheaper, you don't have to brave Gatwick Airport in ski season (there or on the way back) and it can be very useful having a car in resort.

Consider a trip I took recently with my soon to be emigrating (and as such, dead to me) friend, Fonzy. We left my house in Hertfordshire at 5am sharp, dodged the dartford crossing toll by 10 minutes and got to the Eurotunnel in time for a coffee, ham and cheese panini and a 7.20am crossing.

Once arrived on the other side, at 8.55am we gunned it through bleak flat northern France until the fuel started to run out somewhere midway through the country. A quick stop for a tank of fuel, an away football supporter's lunch, a browse of the pornography and a change of driver then we were soon on our way again.

This tank of fuel lasted all the way through mid-France with it's numerous village churches, birds of prey and herds of deer and you then head left towards Geneva and the mountains. We happened to be going to Chatel in the Portes du Soleil, so we were on the autoroute all the way until the final hour when we wound our way up the valley to the resort. You know you are getting close when you start seeing the snow chains signs.

Door to door, this took 12 hours in total. We had the Ipod on random most of the way and contrived a game that involved guessing the songs based on the introduction. This had a fine of two fingers for the loser of each round and by the time we arrived I owed four pints, showing up my lack of knowledge of all things U2 and unknown Australian rock bands.

After such an epic road trip, a massive drinking session ensued followed by Fonzy's equally epic hangover, four days of skiing and much local Savoyard food and wine. When it was time to leave, the reverse trip was more or less exactly the same as the trip out, except it seemed faster - as all journeys home seem to do.

On this occasion, we didn't use the car in resort, but we could have done and it certainly would have saved a few dubious moments on the hot, stinking ski bus which didn't mix too nicely with Fonzy's hangovers. He really isn't very good in the morning after a big night out.

Four days is a nice length for a break. The wannabe Aussie was certainly hanging by the end of the fourth day, but this was mainly due to him concussing himself on the first AND second days and yours truly making sure he had a final epic day's skiing on the last day that he would never forget. In my view, any time spent in the mountains is good time and even if it takes two days of travel to be in such a beautiful environment, it's worth every mile.

Total costs of driving for 4 day ski break (and 2 days of travel);

Bed & Breakfast - twin room for 5 nights - £350
Eurotunnel - £120
Tolls - £70
Fuel - £200

Total - £740/2 - £370 each.

(ski passes extra as they would be for any normal package hol)

p.s. I'll post details of the actual skiing and apres element of the trip in another blog entry.

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