Driving to the Alps: Tips and Advice for a Smooth Ride

Posted on 21 November 2020

Ah, the great debate of driving to the alps or flying. Which is better and which is cheaper? We think differently, for our skiing holidays. We fly to Geneva airport if time is limited and we want to get straight onto the slope. But if not, we turn a drive into a mini road-trip, and that is the start of our Alpine holiday. Touring various villages, attractions, and resorts on the way to our chosen destination, we see more of the Alp’s beautiful terrain, and you can, whether this is the Swiss mountains, France, or Italy.

driving to the alps

For any hard-core skier or snowboarding fan, who hasn’t driven there before, it is quite the experience and even more fun for groups. However, one key aspect is preparation. This isn’t the time to just get in the car and hit the open road. Regardless of which ski-resort you visit, high altitude, snowfall and weather change the driving conditions completely. So ensuring your ski-holiday gets off to a good start, what preparation should be done?

Driving to the alps: How to Do it

Cost of Driving From the UK

When driving to mountainous ski resorts in Europe, get out the paper and pen to figure out how much it will cost. Factors include how many people are contributing, whether your car is diesel or petrol, how many miles to the gallon are there, and the distance? Also, factor in overnight stops in hotels, stop off at restaurants for food, and ferry and toll fees.

How Long does it take to Get to the Alps?

This depends on where you drive to, and where from. The alps mountain ranges comprise eight countries and stretch for 1200 kilometres. The two most popular holiday destinations for drivers are Switzerland and France. From London, an average estimation is 10 to 18 hours, but this depends on your route and which town is your ultimate destination.

Closest Ski Resort from the UK

If coming from Calais ferry port, the closet areas are in Portes du Soleil in the French alps, with its 307 ski slopes. Covering the French and Swiss alps, it comprises 12 resorts of which the closest include Chamonix Mont-Blanc that offers steep skiing, Les Gets, Samoens, Morzine, Chamrousse, and Saint Gervais. Val d’Isère, a popular resort for British skiers, is in the Espace Valley area and is a 10-hour drive away.

Motoring Kits, Insurance, and Servicing

When you have chosen your resort, buy the mandatory motoring kits for that country. These often include warning triangles, reflective jackets, first aid kits, and in France, breathalysing kits. Also have a full service before leaving, fill up on anti-freeze and de-icer windshield fluid. Last, check terms and conditions for car insurance and any related policies. The small print can often be quite a surprise.

Do I Need Snow Chains for driving in France?

The other factor affecting costs is snow chains, which are compulsory, especially in areas like Espace Killy. Snow tyres help, although not mandatory, because they have a better grip and more durable in cold weather. If you plan on a one-off-road trip, this will affect your ultimate costs.

Our Favourite Resorts to Drive To

(Distances are from Calis port and estimated times from Google maps)

Meribel: As a favourite resort, Meribel includes some decent off-piste skiing slopes. (Always use a mountain guide.) Belonging to three Valleys ski area, the ski lifts companies sell various passes and snowboard fans will be pleased with what is on offer. Nine pistes suit beginners and any ski-school offers paid instruction lessons. Meribel is also where to try para-gliding and go up high.

  • Distance: 955 kilometres
  • Time: 8 hour 30 minutes

High Altitude Tignes: Offering it all, this is an excellent resort to drive in the alps during summer. Alongside skiing and snowboarding, winter sports and activities include dog sledding and ice diving. For skiing holidays, cosy Tignes is a family ski friendly area, with childcare facilities on offer. The cable car also goes over 3000 metres past the Grand Motte Glacier. Tignes belongs to the highest mountain ski areas, so expect excellent snow conditions.

  • Distance: 996 km
  • Time: 9 hours

Tignes France

Central Alpe d’Huez: Sitting in south-eastern France at 1,860-metre altitude, get skis out for a marvellous downhill experience, and spectacular peaks. Most skiers agree Alpe d’Huez mountain resort is an all-rounder and the central hub of a perfect ski area. The picturesque terrain suits all levels, and the lively après-ski nightlife social scene attracts those who like to party after a day on the slopes. For advanced skiers, Alpe d’Huez offers 67 kilometres of black runs.

  • Distance: 930 kilometres
  • Time: 8 hours 30 minutes

Luxury Courchevel: Skiing in the Alps steps up a notch in Courchevel thanks to its luxury ski reputation. Catered ski-in ski-out chalets with luxurious furnishings and modern touches are the favourite choice of accommodation. Although the French ski resort revolves around being seen, it also offers decent places to ski, and get away from the Instagram crowd. Three years ago, they also invested in snowmaking machines ensuring constant coverage.

  • Distance: 962 kilometres
  • Time: 8 hours 40 minutes


Megeve in Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region: Offering access to breath taking, backcountry skiing terrain, snowy Megeve is a great Alpine ski holiday destination. Ski and snowboard fans always enjoy themselves, and it is one of those French resorts with beautiful spring to autumn meadows, therefore attracting trekking and mountain-biking fans. As part of the Mont Blanc massif, it has also kept its traditional alpine architecture, making it one of France’s best alpine resorts.

  • Distance: 888 kilometres
  • Time: 8 hours

Les Arcs in Tarentaise Valley: Belonging to Paradiski mountain-range, ski touring here is quite a delight. Known for their yearly torch-lit ski descent, the top elevation stands at roughly 3000 metres. As a high mountainside resort, driving conditions are more challenging but do-able. Les Arcs also offers excellent cross-country skiing.

  • Distance: 991 kilometres
  • Time: 9 hours

About Us: We are Skiing Property, a leading estate agent selling apartments and chalets across the French Alps. Browse our portfolio of homes for sale across France and Switzerland here. Alternatively, read our ski blog for more articles about trips to skiing or snowboarding resorts, driving to the alps, area guides and the best ski resorts.