Taking to the slopes? A guide to caravanning safely in ski season
From Aviemore to Zermatt, a caravanning ski holiday can be a smart way of taking to the slopes, while avoiding eye-watering chalet or hotel bills. From choosing the right spot, through to ensuring a stress-free holiday, preparation is key. With this in mind, here’s what it takes to use your motorhome or caravan to safely enjoy the very best of the European ski season.
Caravan or traditional ski holiday?
The potential cost saving is the most obvious benefit of a caravan ski holiday. To illustrate just how much you could save, The Telegraph reported research from caravan dealership, Salop Leisure, showing that the average cost of a budget chalet or hotel for a family of four in one of the cheapest areas of the French Alps, Serre Chevalier, was £1,210. By contrast, a pitch suitable for a family of four at the nearby Champ du Moulin campsite was quoted at £163.
Aside from the financial, there are other potential benefits, too. Travelling under your own steam makes it easier to visit more than one ski resort in a single holiday. You also have more flexibility, allowing you to tweak your plans according to local weather reports and follow the best snow conditions. Yes, that might mean more ski passes, but we’ve already established a substantial saving — why not use it to make the most out of your holiday?
What’s more, thanks to features such as laundry, private bathroom facilities, saunas, wireless internet and even on-site bars and restaurants, a caravan ski holiday doesn’t necessarily have to mean skimping on home comforts.
Be aware of local rules regarding compulsory equipment
European countries are prepared for dealing with wintry conditions and they require drivers to be similarly equipped. Once you’ve chosen your destination, map out your route. The RAC’s guide for compulsory winter driving equipment in European countries is a good summary to learn from.
In France, for instance, snow chains are required on snow-covered roads where indicated by road signs. In Austria, winter tyres on your car or motorhome are effectively compulsory during the ski season. When buying snow chains, make sure you are comfortable with how to fit them. For this, try before you buy and have a couple of further ‘dry-runs’ at fitting them shortly before you set off as a reminder.
Preparing your caravan for the journey
Your ski holiday may mean taking your caravan out of winter storage. If so, check carefully for frost damage, burst pipes, and interior mould. Tyres on a stationary vehicle can deteriorate quicker than on vehicles that are used regularly, so look out for any bald patches and signs of wall cracking. Also, make sure the running gear is in good working order.
Extra heating and light usage on a winter motorhome trip can take its toll on your battery. As such, if there are signs of wear and tear, consider a replacement. Your vehicle’s handbook will set out how often the antifreeze ought to be replaced, so ensure you are not behind on the service schedule to avoid any unnecessary problems during the trip. Remember to check your light bulbs at the beginning of each day on the road and take a set of spare bulbs with you for the journey. Stock up, too, on screen wash and remember that windscreen cracks and scratches can magnify the sun’s glare — something that’s especially noticeable in winter when the sun is low in the sky. Get any windscreen repairs done before the trip.
Despite your best efforts to make sure everything’s in order, winter has a habit of triggering mechanical issues. If something does go wrong on the road, insurance cover through Club Care gives you the protection you need.
Safety on the road
Staying safe means adapting your driving behaviour according to the conditions. This includes keeping your distance, and remembering that stopping distances are up to ten times greater than usual in snow or icy conditions.
Unlike in the UK where a snowy or icy spell has the habit of catching us unawares, central European authorities are usually prepared for it, which means (hopefully at least), the majority of your journey should involve driving on treated surfaces. Nevertheless, still be aware of the possibility of icy patches on seemingly clear roads. When approaching a hill with your motorhome or caravan, ensure it is clear of traffic up ahead before starting your ascent and climb in as low a gear as you can. Ice can also exacerbate ‘snaking’ (side to side movement), so make sure your caravan is evenly loaded.
Doing your research, making sure your caravan or motorhome is in good working order, and taking care to put the right insurance cover in place will help ensure your caravan ski holiday is one to remember.
For more information on Club Care’s insurance policies, head on over to the website.