Love skiing, but hate the cost of a winter sports holiday? Well, the good news is that a motorhome helps you keep prices low, freeing up your cash for a great holiday on the slopes.
But the last thing you want is for your much-needed winter skiing break to become an uphill struggle. So there are a few things you must bear in mind before you head up into the mountains in your home-on-wheels.
We’ve put together some top tips covering everything from snow driving to keeping warm to getting insurance for your motorhome. Read on for our guide to motorhomes and winter ski holidays!
Can you take your motorhome into the snow?
You certainly can – so long as you’ve got a decent vehicle, and you’re fully prepared. That means spending a bit of time making sure your motorhome is safe to drive in adverse weather conditions.
Winter tyres have a better grip on the road, and in some countries it’s the law that you have these fitted during the colder months. You should have snow chains at the ready, too, and know how to fit and use them.
Pack a shovel: it’s one of those essentials, like motorhome insurance, that you hope you’ll never need to use, but you’ll be glad of in an emergency.
Carry out all your normal tyre checks including pressure and tread before setting off, as you really don’t want a tyre to burst in a snowstorm. Check your battery, too.
Make sure your windscreen wipers are in great condition, and that you’ve got an ice scraper and antifreeze to hand as well.
Fill up with fuel before you go, otherwise you could find yourself desperately searching for a petrol station in a blizzard. That’s nobody’s idea of a great winter holiday!
And whatever you do, don’t overload your vehicle. All that skiing equipment will add to the weight, and make your motorhome harder to handle.
If you have an accident in an overladen vehicle, you could well find the cost of repairs is not covered by your motorhome insurance.
Tips for snow driving in a motorhome
So your vehicle’s in good nick, you’ve got your motorhome insurance and all other documents in place, and you’re ready to hit the road. What should you know about driving in the snow or on icy roads?
First of all, remember your motorhome handles very differently from your car. Not only is it several times larger and heavier, it might also have rear-wheel, not front-wheel, drive.
You’ll need to drive slowly, as there is an increased risk of skidding. If you’re on a windy mountain road, you really should slow right down when travelling round corners to stay safe.
Braking poses a particular risk, so leave plenty of room between you and the car in front. That way, if you need to brake, you can do so slowly and minimise the risk of skidding.
At night, you might need to use low beams to avoid reflection on the snow. However, it’s best to avoid night driving on snow if at all possible – there are just too many risks.
Stay alert at all times. Yes, this is always necessary when driving – but during the winter, you’re more likely to encounter hazards, and the impact can be more severe.
And if conditions seem really bad, or you’re not feeling confident, find a safe place to stop and take a break. It’s better to delay your journey for a few hours or even a few days than to have an accident.
Pros and cons of taking your motorhome on a skiing holiday
So given all the hassle and potential risks of driving a large vehicle in wintry conditions, why would you take your motorhome on a skiing holiday?
The biggest pro is cost. You’re swapping the cost of high season airfares, plus extra baggage allowance, for the far lower price of petrol, Eurotunnel fees and motorway tolls.
Instead of an eye-wateringly expensive chalet or hotel room, you’re paying campsite fees – and, as you’ll see below, these can be kept to a minimum.
Another major plus point is convenience. If you’re booking flights and accommodation, you’ll need to do so way in advance – and conditions on the slopes could turn out to be disappointing.
With a motorhome, you might be able just to wait for a good forecast, drop your boss a quick email, and head off to the slopes. Or you can book a week off work in advance, then see where the freshest powder is before picking your resort.
Then, instead of lugging your heavy equipment from taxi to baggage drop-off to airport bus and so on, you just load it into your motorhome and set off.
However, there are disadvantages. The drive to the French Alps is a long one and you might need time to rest afterwards, which eats into your precious holiday time.
If you’re the only driver, or you’ve got young kids with you, the journey can turn into an ordeal.
If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll need to get your vehicle documents in order, including your motorhome insurance.
Plus, unless you’re very hardy indeed, it’s going to be too cold to spend much time sitting outside your vehicle, so you are likely to be confined to your motorhome when not skiing.
Still, with all that money you’re saving on hotel costs, you could happily while away the evenings in a lovely Alpine restaurant or bar instead!
All in all, motorhomes are great for skiing holidays – so long as you’re fully prepared.
Keeping warm in your motorhome in winter
These days, modern motorhomes are designed for all-season travel and living. But older models might need a bit of TLC before they’re really ready to keep you comfortable during a winter break.
That slight draught round the windows might be pleasant on your summer holiday – but in January or February, it’s going to feel like an arctic blast.
So in the autumn, check for gaps, cracks or leaks and carry out any repairs. It’s a good idea to take some emergency supplies with you, too: gaffa tape and sealant could be crucial!
You can close off the air vents in the vehicle cabin overnight, but not the vent grilles at lower levels as these are essential in case of gas leaks.
Don’t forget your pipes and tanks! These should be insulated in modern motorhomes, but do double check – if they freeze, they could crack.
If you’re on electric hook-up, lift up the cable regularly to prevent it freezing to the ground or getting buried in the snow.
Fit silverscreens to your windscreen and windows to prevent them icing up.
Remember that you’re likely to use far more electricity during your winter holiday than on a summer break: you’ll need to heat your van, and use lighting for longer. So if you don’t have an electric hook-up where you’re staying, consider getting a back-up battery.
There is a lot you can do to winterise your motorhome, but never forget the obvious ways to keep yourself warm: blankets, hot water bottles, thick socks and thermals for all occupants!
And how about some hot chocolate and a tot of the local liqueur? Don’t overdo it though – skiing or driving while over the limit is highly dangerous, and could invalidate both your winter sports insurance and your motorhome insurance.
Best places to go skiing
Pretty much anywhere you find mountains, you’ll find ski slopes! They all offer something different, though, so do your research in advance.
To limit the ratio of driving to skiing, most motorhome owners head to France for their winter sports holiday.
You can be on the slopes within a day or so – particularly if you share the driving. Alternatively, you could stop off en route to admire a beautiful city outside the tourist season.
Paris in the winter is a truly special sight.
Where to ski in France? There are dozens of wonderful sites clustered in the Alps, and it’s really down to local conditions and personal preference.
For family skiing, try Avoriaz with its huge Village des Enfants, incorporating great nursery slopes and kid-friendly restaurants and events. For an off-piste challenge, try La Grave close to the Italian border. And if a lively après-ski scene is important, you’ll want to head to Meribel.
Another option is Scotland, where there are five ski centres. While the snow may be less reliable here, it’s easier for many Brits to head to the Highlands on a whim once the forecast is right than it is to negotiate the Eurotunnel and French motorway network.
The Scottish ski centres are often best late in the season, which is ideal if you’re not constrained by school holidays or have only a weekend free.
If you’ve got a bit more time, why not try the Italian, Austrian, Swiss or German Alps? Or head further west to the Pyrenees or the Sierra Nevada in Spain?
For lower prices, look to eastern Europe. There are great slopes in Poland, Bulgaria and even Macedonia, among many other mountainous places. All of them have something new and different to offer the seasoned skier.
If you prefer the calm of ski touring to the adrenaline of downhill skiing, Scandinavia is the place for you. In Sweden, you’ll find miles of trails round frozen lakes and through unspoiled forested landscapes. Just beautiful!
Wherever you choose Scotland, France or further afield in Europe, Motorhome Protect can arrange motorhome insurance to cover your trip.
Where to stay
The great advantage of French resorts over most other places, though, is that they’re ideally set up for motorhomes.
If you’re skiing on a shoestring, you can stay overnight in many car parks right next to the slopes. You won’t get any luxury, but you will be first on the slopes in the morning! Do your research, as some sites have now banned overnight stays in car parks.
Other places have ‘ski aires’ for around £10 per night, with a water supply, waste water drain and even, in some cases, electric hook-ups. You’ll be expected to clear the snow around your own motorhome, and not to hog the facilities.
In the evenings, there’s often a fun and friendly atmosphere on the aire – and in the mornings, you’ll be on the slopes while the hotel guests in the nearby resorts are still waiting for their shuttle buses!
For a little more luxury, head to a campsite – usually at a somewhat lower altitude than the slopes. Both France and Scotland are blessed with numerous picturesque sites to suit all budgets, though you may need to book in advance.
Whether you fancy soaking in a sauna after skiing, hitting a campsite bar, or just chilling under the stars, you’ll find a place that’s perfect for you.
In fact, after a few nights of your motorhome skiing holiday, you’ll wonder why you ever stayed in an overpriced chalet!
One advantage of Scotland over Europe for skiing holidays is down to Brexit. No matter where in the UK you are, you won’t need extra documentation for a trip to Scotland.
For EU trips, check the government website for the latest information about passports, driving licences, health cover, and other documentation and regulations. Rest assured: Motorhome Protect will continue to provide EU cover as part of its motorhome insurance policies.
Get a quote from Motorhome Protect today
To have a carefree, exhilarating time on the pistes, you need to take a few precautions. One key action you must take to help protect yourself and others is to choose suitable motorhome insurance.
Motorhome Protect arranges cover for all sorts of vehicles up to a value of £150,000. These policies can include cover across the European Union and unlimited mileage – so you can travel from Sweden to Spain, taking in snow-covered ski slopes along the way.
Camping personal effects of up to £3,000 can also be included in your policy.
So what are you waiting for? Dust off your snowsuit, and start planning your trip.
Get a quote today.
Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.