Having not skied as a family since December 2019 to say we were excited by the prospect of hitting the snow again in April 2022 would be a huge understatement, but in terms of the sky-high prices for return flights from the UK to Geneva over the Easter period it appeared we were not alone in these feelings as all those fellow mountain lovers who had like us missed their snow fix snapped up all the reasonably priced flights.
What to do???
Well, the Hansgate family are always up for an adventure and with an increasing awareness of the need to reduce Carbon footprints and “Save our Snow” it seemed like a great idea to drive our electric car the almost 800 miles door to door from our home in East Anglia.
Would this be a tranquil, relaxing, peaceful ride through the French countryside or the journey from hell????
To be fair the omens were not great before we set off. All news channels and media outlets were devoting hours of TV and radio coverage detailing just how chaotic Dover and the port area was and giving minute by minute analysis of just how long the truck queue was on the M20, (2000 lorries and 20-mile tale backs were widely reported!) Furthermore, friends’ predictions of Easter holiday traffic chaos and an inevitable lack of electric charging points meaning endless hours sat in our car without moving did not fill us with confidence.
So, it was with much trepidation that we left our house at 06:00am on Saturday 9th April 2022 and wondered at what hour, (even what day), would we arrive at our home for the week in Tignes Val Claret?
However, our arrival at Dover gave us reason for optimism. We made speedy, easy progress along uncrowded motorways to the port and on arrival were met not with an apocalyptical scene of strewn lorries and uncontrolled chaos but rather a very polite DFDS ticket office employee who gave us a cheery welcome and asked us to make our way to our lane for the next Cross Channel ferry which was to leave in an hour. Granted we had a bit of a wobble at French passport control when it suddenly became apparent, we had somehow forgotten to bring with us an NHS letter proving the vaccination status of our daughter, (she was fully vaccinated), which technically meant we were not allowed to enter France. However, this was met with a slight shake of the head by the French border force member of staff who muttered “exceptional circumstance” and thankfully waved us through!
With a brilliant blue sky, very light winds and gorgeous sunshine beaming on the “White Cliffs”, Dover was a beautiful site as we serenely cruised out of the harbour and into The Channel. The children quickly found their sea legs and inevitably headed to the onboard restaurant where we enjoyed coffee, croissant and pain au chocolat and then perused the ships excellent duty-free shop. Was this moment of calm a false dawn? Would we face unknown hazards once on French soil? Would all the electric car charging points be filled with tourists from all over Europe making the same pilgrimage to The French Alps???
The reality was a very pleasant surprise.
On disembarking the ferry in Calais our sat nav skilfully directed us to the A26 motorway towards Reims and we were off. Very few cars, pothole free roads, not a traffic cone in sight and an 80mph speed limit meant our progress was stress free and rapid. We quickly fell into the rhythm of 2 ½ hour spells of driving followed by a 25-minute quick charging stop at smart, modern services with all the amenities you could wish for, (including proper restaurants which I always think is a little odd but wonderfully French) and the miles literally flew by, with the help of a little light exercise in a French service station.
and a bit of “in car dad dancing!”
Incidentally it is worth noting that at all the motorway services we stopped at the electric car charging points were plentiful, fully working and though it was the peak Easter weekend, without any queues.
We hit The French Alps just after nightfall, which was a shame as we did not get to see amazing views of the mountains with their thick newly settled layer of perfectly white snow. The rain in the valley began to increasingly turn into snow as we made our way up the mountain towards our destination at 2150m above sea level my thoughts/fears turned towards our nearly acquired car “snowshoes”. The pre-travel test fitting on a warm, dry Spring day at home felt a long way from the reality of the situation we faced as the snow became heavier and thicker, settling on the road to form a beautiful white blanket.
Would we make it to resort without needing to perform an emergency pit stop at the side of the road? Thankfully, the answer was no and we safely made it to our apartment residence just after midnight. We were settled into cosy, comfortable apartment no more than 20 minutes later and not soon after dreaming about our first day on the slopes.
Though it is worth mentioning that the 1500m climb up to Tignes Val Claret was pretty demanding on our car battery!
The previous days journey was well worth it as we hit the slopes the next day under cloudless skies and with a blanket of fresh snow beneath our skis!
The return journey home was a similarly relaxed affair. Interestingly the range of our car actually went up as we completed the first hour down the mountain from Tignes Val Claret to Bourg St Maurice from 80 miles to over 100 miles due to the regenerative effect of breaking whilst winding down the mountain roads on the car’s battery. As the temperatures hit a freakishly high 27 degrees we made our way out of The Alps and without any hassle towards our pre-booked over night stop in Dijon. We had decided to leave Tignes after an almost full day on the slopes on Friday evening and break the journey in two in order to ensure we could comfortably reach Calais for our 16:00 return ferry and this proves to be somewhat of a masterstroke. After only a little over 6 hours of driving we were pulling up at our over night accommodation, a perfectly comfortable and spotlessly clean Campanile Hotel in a light industrial/retail estate on the outskirts of Dijon. Following a regenerative sleep in a wonderfully comfortable bed and fuelled by a hearty continental breakfast, (with fruit smuggled out of the restaurant in our hoody pockets) we set off on the final leg of our French adventure back to Calais. 6 hours later and we arrived at Calais at 14:30 and after checking in were immediately booked onto the next departing ferry at 15:00 an hour earlier than scheduled!
Once back this side of The Channel we negotiated the last couple of hours of our journey home without incident. Though I will admit my stubborn decision not to recharge our car battery in Dover did create an unnecessary battle between the predicted miles until an empty battery and the actual number of miles we needed to cover until we reached home. I am happy to say my calculations were correct and we arrived home with miles, (about 20), to spare.
Our journey was without doubt a success. Not only was it less than 1/3 of the equivalent cost of flights and transfers, but it also made a significant reduction in our carbon footprint and meant that rather than waiting around in soulless airports and being shuffled around like sheep at shearing time from queue to queue we were control of our own journey. We decided where we stopped, for how long and what we did. The over-night stop on the way back, was a good idea which I would recommend as though it made it a 2 day journey it did allow us to ski much of our last day and then get a sensible time on our return ferry. Furthermore, with a car there is no luggage weight limit, if it fits in the car it can go with you, something that can be really handy on a ski holiday with all that gear!
- Buy a flexible ferry ticket which means you can be placed on the next available crossing should you arrive early or indeed late at the port.
- Take regular service stops. It kept us fresh at the wheel, gave us all the change to stretch our legs and made the journey less of a relentless charge to The Alps and more part of the holiday.
- If you have an electric car, plan your charging stops in advance to reduce your range anxiety. France has one of Europe’s best charging networks and the services we encountered were universally great, but we felt better that we had planned our stops and don’t forget to have a full battery before you start a long mountain road climb!
- Make sure non-drivers, particularly children, have lots to occupy their time, books, electronic devices etc.
- Book an over-night stay in a hotel for your return journey to maximise your time on the slopes and ensure you do not have a very late ferry crossing on your return day. What you miss out on in terms of après ski drinks you certainly gain back in terms of arriving home at a good time.
- Make sure you have bought snow chains or snowshoes for your car and also that you have al the equipment required by law in France, (warning triangle, high visibility vests for all people in the car etc).
Why not make a positive change for the environment and undoubtedly save money in the process by driving to The Alps for your next ski holiday?
Get in touch now for more details.