Ten of the Best Self-Drive Ski ResortsDriving can be a cost-effective way of traveling to ski resorts in the Alps. Many ski resorts are easily reached by car in less than 10 hours from Calais. Here’s our pick of ten of the best ski resorts in the Alps for self-drive ski holidays.
Setting out on the open road and throwing the kids, ski gear and kitchen sink in the car and driving to the Alps is a liberating way to go on a skiing holiday. If the car has a three or four passengers, it’s also a cost-effective at peak times and avoids waiting at airports and those extra charges for checked-in baggage and ski carriage. The ski resorts featured below have been chosen because they’re all about 1000km or less from Calais and would take 10 hours or less to drive to from Calais. And if you want to take your time, it’s a great way to explore France, Benelux and Germany en route.
Not only is Chamonix an easy drive from Calais – Autoroute practically all the way to resort, a car is very handy once you’re in the valley. The skiing and boarding is spread out across five areas and while there is a shuttle bus, it can be packed and a little irregular. Chamonix is fully deserving of its extreme reputation and while there’s terrain to suit all abilities, the focus is on experts and wannabe experts. There are plenty of hotels in the buzzing town to choose from – Hermitage is quite central and popular – and many cater to short stays. Chamonix Sud is apartment-central, while chalets are dotted throughout the valley. Distance from Calais: 896km / 8 hours.
Chocolate box charm can’t always be said about French resorts, but Megève is one of the few exceptions. Its old-fashioned rustic chic, complete with horse-drawn sleighs, cobbled streets and flattering, mainly tree-lined slopes are a joy for intermediates. For anyone seeking a challenge, head off piste and play among the trees. The village is fairly spread out so having your car helps to access the main lifts easily and, as Megève is one of the original smart resorts – on a par with St Moritz and Courchevel in its heyday – there are still plenty of grand but welcoming hotels. Best of all, many of the visitors prefer to promenade through town rather than explore the slopes so you’ll have them to yourselves. Distance from Calais: 884km / 8 hours.
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Purpose built with doorstep skiing and snowboarding, Avoriaz is part of the huge Portes du Soleil circuit that spans the border with Switzerland. An intermediate haven, there are miles and miles of blues and reds, some offering confidence-building rollers, others more serious challenges. The traffic-free resort centre complete with nursery slopes and play area for children is a delight for families and beginners, and there are self-catering apartments galore, the newer ones more spacious than the cramped older ones. Cars are left in car parks at the edge of the village – book a space underground for a hassle-free departure if it snows. If you fancy a change of scene, Flaine and Chamonix are short drives away. Distance from Calais: 895km / 8 hours 20 minutes.
Extensive slopes offer mileage-hungry intermediates a wealth of options – wide bowls, tree-lined steep rollercoasters, and a huge thigh-burner from the top of the Aiguille Rouge at 3225 metres to Villaroger at 1200 metres. And if that’s not enough, take the Vanoise Express to La Plagne, where more of the same awaits, as part of the 425km Paradiski area. Apartments and catered chalets abound in slopeside developments – the newest, Arc 1950 is by far the most convenient and pretty. Hop in your car and explore the rest of the Tarentaise valley – Tignes, Val d’Isère, La Rosière and Ste Foy are all nearby. Distance from Calais: 980km / 9 hours.
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If you want your family holiday to be focussed on more than just 9 to 5 skiing or snowboarding, Villars is a worthwhile contender. It’s more a town than village, and has plenty going on, including skating, swimming and walks through the lower wooded slopes. Attracting families and second-home owners (it’s not only easy to drive to, it’s also very close to Geneva), the slopes mainly suit intermediates; they reach up to nearly 3000 metres at Glacier 3000 above Les Diablerets, but it is a bit of a schlep to get to. Accommodation focuses on smart traditional hotels, and the food is good both on and off the slopes. Make the most of your car and take a day trip to Verbier, less than an hour away. Distance from Calais: 815km / 8 hours 10 minutes.
Towering over 2000 metres above Engelberg town is Titlis, a mammoth freeriders’ paradise of a mountain with lengthy off-piste runs that start over glaciers and end among the trees near town. Experienced intermediates will like the challenging reds and while beginners are catered for, there is little for them to progress to as early intermediates. The town, rather than village, is full of grand belle époque hotels plus some newer chalets and apartment blocks. Skiing and snowboarding holidays were but a glint in Henry Lunn’s eye when Engelberg was built, so your car will come in handy for getting to the ski lifts. Distance from Calais: 887km / 8 hours 20 minutes.
Stunning views and everything you’d expect from a traditional Swiss resort abound in Grindelwald, along with its neighbours Wengen and Mürren. A cog railway or gondola accesses the bulk of the long, fairly gentle intermediate terrain, shared with Wengen, the World Cup Lauberhorn run and the welcoming mountain restaurants and après bars dotted along the route back to base. Three- and four-star hotels dominate accommodation, and après ski is getting livelier. With the main lift stations spread out, your car will be handy – but also take the time to take the train from the station in the village to explore the rest of the area and the valley along to Interlaken. Distance from Calais: 923km / 8 hours 45 minutes.
In one of the snowiest corner of the Alps, bordering Lech and St Anton, the Bregenzerwald region has 259km of well-groomed slopes, of which 200km in three main resorts. Close to Friedrichshafen and the border with Germany, it’s easy to get to by car and having a car is ideal for exploring the three main ski villages of Damuls-Mellau, Warth-Schrőcken and Au-Schoppernau (Diedamskopf) which together include over 200km of well-groomed ski slopes and plenty of off-piste terrain for freeriding and ski touring. Villages in the Bregenzerwald are invariably pretty, unspoiled and quiet by Austrian standards so don’t expect vibrant après ski, but the region boasts dozens of exceptionally good three-star and four-star hotels which are very reasonably priced. Distance from Calais: 1,016km / 9 hours 20 minutes.
You may think driving to Austria is a turn too far, but it’s where many coach trips venture and officially (according to the AA), comes in at less than 10 hours from Calais. Sőll in the Austrian Tirol is popular with families and a great place to get a few early-intermediate weeks under your belt. It’s one of a number of villages in the SkiWelt – Austria’s biggest fully lift connected ski area (279km), which also includes Ellmau, Scheffau, Going, Itter, Hopfgarten, Westendorf and Brixen. The pretty village of Sőll offers lively après ski and a choice of simple gasthofs, B&Bs and three-star hotels – having a car here is handy for exploring other SkiWelt villages and for driving to the ski lifts on the outskirts of Sőll. Distance from Calais: 1,083km / 9 hours 40 minutes.
For a taste of the Dolce Vita, and a stark contrast to neighbouring Chamonix, head through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy and Courmayeur, home to highly-praised food and delicious local specialties on and off the mountain, plus a brace of strong red runs, if a little limited in extent. The charming village is home to some challenging off piste that if it wasn’t inevitably compared to Chamonix’s would be perfectly adequate, plus “easier” access to the Vallée Blanche. The village’s charming traffic-free centre has a few catered chalets and plenty of hotels, while further along the rest of the Aosta valley there are more resorts (Pila, La Thuile) easily visited by car. Distance from Calais: 913km / 8 hours 15 minutes.
Erna Low self-drive ski holidays
Erna Low offers good value self-drive ski package holidays including Eurotunnel or ferry and a wide choice of good quality self-catering accommodation. It’s also worth checking for special offers from ferry companies Brittany Ferries, P&0 and Sea France and check prices of accommodation if booked independently.
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Ferry Crossings from the UK to the Continent
Dover to Calais is the most popular ferry crossing from the UK and we’ve used Calais as a common starting point for comparing driving distances to ski resorts. Alternatives includes Southampton to Cherbourg or Caen and Channel sailings to Dieppe, Dunkerque, Ostende or Zeebrugge, then head to one of the three main gateways to the Alps – Mâcon in France, Basel in Switzerland and Ulm in Germany.
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Distances and driving time estimates from Calais – Source: Google Maps.