Wow!! Just the very thought of crisp white, freshly powdered snow, gets me itching to venture off again to the fantastic ski resorts of Europe.
Nothing beats waking up to those huge snowflakes falling on the camper and realising that the van has disappeared under a foot or more of snow……how exciting!
We did our first motorhome ski trip to the Alps back in 2005, in what was then our brand new Swift Bessacarr. It was a complete learning curve, that came with a few obstacles and surprises, but we still absolutely loved it. Despite the temperatures dropping to a very cool -17C, it didn’t put us off returning year on year!
To help make you’re motorhome/campervan Ski trip a success, here’s our tips to a stress-free trip!
Above all – Be Prepared!!
1. Snow Chains – don’t leave home without them! All the ski areas and approach roads to them will require, usually by law, vehicles to carry on board and use snow chains. Ensure you buy the correct tyre size for your van.
We had both snow socks and snow chains but some countries only allow the use of chains.
2. Fresh Water tanks – External water tanks will freeze, if you want fresh running water in the van, you’ll need an internal fresh water tank.
3. Be Warned! – On our first Ski trip back in 2005, we had a Swift Bessacarr, the fresh water tanks were located in the garage, with blown air heating and a sleeping bag covering the tanks. Despite this, they still froze!
4. External Fresh and Waste Water Tanks – They will still freeze, any insulation will only delay the inevitable.
5. Waste Water – Leave open the waste drain and let the waste water drain away into a shallow rimmed bucket, which will fit below the waste outlet (a horse feed bucket is perfect). The waste water will just drain into the bucket, ready for you to empty each day.
On our first ski trip our waste tank froze immediately and stayed like that for the duration of our stay, when we opened the sink taps, the water just gurgled back up the plug hole!
Electric Heating – Campsites don’t very often have a 16amp supply like you’d find in the UK. This in a nutshell means that any electric heating won’t run effectively or to the capacity that you may be used to back home. Expect a supply of either 6 or 10amp at best. Electric heating combined with other electric appliances, lighting etc will sometimes trip the site supply at the pitch bollard. This will need to be switched back on, probably by taking a trip in the cold to the site office to get them to open the box to switch it back on! Even worse, it usually trips of your neighbours electric too!
Gas Heating – It’s powerful and keeps you toasty warm but it uses a lot of gas! It’s a different ball game to the gas hob, which keeps the gas bottles full for an eternity. Take the maximum capacity gas bottles that your van can legally carry. Think about buying a spare pigtail for the country you’re going to, before you travel, you can then buy a bottle in country if you need to without the worry of having no method of connecting it. If you’re completely new to this, for information, our Calor UK bottles are not sold in Europe.
Diesel Heating – It’s powerful and lasts well. Fill up in an Alpine region where the diesel will be a different mix, especially for Alpine conditions.
7. Take a long handled brush to clear snow off the van roof and windows.
8. Take a shovel to dig out the van and build the obligatory snow man!!
9. Carpet pieces are great to put under the van tyres, we take a few old scraps, they act as a good grip to get you off snow and mud and back on the road.
10. If you get iced in on your pitch, the campsites have a tractor that will tow you off.
11. Put Extra Strength windscreen wash in the windscreen filler and keep the wipers off the windscreen when you’re pitched up.
12. Silver Screens – Pop them on when you arrive and keep them in place, just lower the top half to let in light and sunshine.
13. Park in a Sunny spot – It will warm the van in the day and help melt the snow and ice.
14. Electric Lead – Carefully lift it up out the snow each morning, helps to avoid freezing and also stops it getting buried under days of snow fall.
15. If you’re van has not got flush fitting windows, try to avoid a build up of ice. On the protruding plastic windows, melted snow freezes around them and can then break the plastic window itself.
16. Be prepared for bad conditions even before you reach the Alps. We were stuck in snow on the main French motorway one year, with no where to go but a service station whilst snow ploughs tried to clear one lane overnight.
17. Stock up on food and necessities beforehand. In most ski resorts there are just small shops, so it’s difficult to carry lots back to the van and you won’t want to move the van if you can help it. For large supermarkets, stop at a town before reaching the Alpine resorts.
18. Take a water container and funnel – This is to fill the fresh water tank by hand. Very often any water taps on a site are switched off during Winter. Water is usually accessed from inside a heated building, we take a cheap plastic sledge to pull the container back to the van!
19. If you are staying on a site with a drying room for boots and clothes, there may be a lockable clasp supplied on the storage racks. We take a padlock with us to lock the clasp and keep our equipment secure.
20. We take warm dressing gowns to wear to the shower block, it saves taking lots of bulky clothes into a narrow cubicle, clothes falling on the floor and getting sprayed by the showers!
21. If you’re going at Christmas, it’s worth noting that you’ll usually have the site and slopes to yourself until Boxing day. It’s then that the locals and tourists arrive for the skiing and it won’t go quiet until the schools go back.
22. Ensure you have travel insurance and that it covers you for skiing and any other activities that you may do, think about sledging, toboggan, ice skating etc.
23. There are some great campsites, they should have the ski bus stop regularly outside the entrance, so you shouldn’t have to worry about getting to the ski lifts. If the ski lift is just a few minutes walk away then you’ll be expected to walk there!
Finally, if you’re like us, you’ll love the whole snow and ski experience, so have an amazing ski season and hopefully, we’ll hear, that you too will be returning year on year!