You can do it in a day, but you’ll arrive in better shape for the slopes if you stop for a night on the way
Some 300,000 British skiers and snowboarders drive to the Alps for a skiing holiday each year. Many just dash down the autoroutes to get there as fast as possible. But those in the know take it a little slower and enjoy more of France along the way.
Choosing Your Route
Most Brits who drive to the slopes head for the French Alps: to resorts such as Chamonix, Val d'Isère, La Plagne, Les Arcs and Flaine, Méribel, and Courchevel or accessible Swiss resorts close to Geneva such as Verbier and Villars. From Calais to Chamonix your journey time will be approximately nine hours. The quickest route is to go via Lille, Reims, Dijon and Geneva. If you are going to the Tarentaise resorts the best route is via Lyon and Chambery. Head to the mountains past Albertville and Moutiers for Courchevel and past Bourg St Maurice for Tignes and Val d’Isere. Count on at least ten hours driving time for a ski holiday in France. Useful websites to plan your route: www.theaa.com; www.viamichelin.co.uk; www.rac.co.uk
A spot of lunch
From Calais hit the road getting on the autoroute towards Reims. The hypermarkets in Calais will have tempting bargains, but don’t load up your boot yet. You can buy cheap wine at local vineyards and stock up at supermarkets closer to the Alps before you get to your resort. For your first break, stop at one of the many 'Aire' rest stops on the Autoroute. They vary from wooded roadside picnic places to large service stations. All have toilets that are of high standard and most have picnic tables and kids’ play areas. They are also free. Take advantage of some of the famous wine growing regions for a good lunch. Reims, the capital of Champagne is 2 ½ hours from Calais - just about the right distance for a relaxed midday meal. If you don’t want to get too far off the motorway keep going for another 1 ½ hours to Val Moret (Autoroute A5, Sortie 22). Le Val Moret (Tel: +33 3 25 29 8512) is a great little restaurant with good food and service and excellent value, a short distance from the toll.
Where to Stay
A popular option for overnighting a short distance past Reims is Troyes – although it does leave quite a long journey the next day to reach the Alps. Troyes is a truly delightful medieval town, full of timber-beamed houses and snug restaurants. B&B Hotels have two excellent value hotels here www.hotel-bb.com.
An hour or so further south from Troyes, a short hop off the autoroute, the lovely old walled town of Langres is another atmospheric overnight stop option. The comfortable three star Le Cheval Blanc hotel (Tel: +33 325 870 700) is steeped with history – it’s actually part of an old abbey. Its restaurant also does excellent food with menus from around £25.
Further down the road, Dijon capital of Burgundy, famous for its mustard, fine cuisine and Burgundy wine, is at about the halfway mark so it makes for an excellent overnight spot, leaving a relatively easy drive on day two to your skiing in the Alps.
Eat at Le Fredline (Tel: +33 3 80 30 27 57;) for authentic Burgundy cuisine with fresh produce from the market. In the heart of historic Dijon, it’s open 6 days a week - not Sundays. Or else try Le Bora (Tel: +33 3 80 73 60 59:) Also in Dijon centre the excellent value Menu duJour is around £12 for three courses.
In Dijon the Campanile, motel-type two star hotels start at £40 for a twin room.
Finally if you want a quick stop before facing the steep hill climb road up to your resort Albertville has a compact and charming centre ideal for a coffee or short stop. If you are heading to Chamonix stop off at one of the two big supermarkets, Carrefour at Sallanches 200m from motorway exit, where you will be hard pushed to find a supermarket in France with a better view. The Super U at Passy is another option. For the Tarentaise stop to stock up at the Geant supermarket in Albertville which is also the best value. Other options are the Super U in Moutiers or Bourg St Maurice, both of which are fine for the Three Valleys/La Plagne or Val d’Isere,Tignes/Les Arcs/La Rosiere.
For more information see the official France Tourist Board website
Want to take more time to enjoy the journey? Read our two stop French ski holiday driving guide.
P&O Ferries Ski Expert
The Guardian's wintersports correspondent from 1999-2005, Nicky is now the regular ski writer for The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian and ski magazines Daily Mail Ski and Snowboard, and Ski and Board, the magazine of the Ski Club of Great Britain. Her first memories of skiing holidays are sitting on the shoulders of her parents’ ski guide as he zoomed down the slopes - she was just five years old. Her favourite resorts are Chamonix, where she once fell into a crevasse, St Anton where she learned to dance in skiboots and Aspen for its awesome powder snow.