How to Prepare For a Ski Trip In a Motorhome
So, just how should you prepare for a ski trip in a motorhome? Well there’s one thing for certain, getting it right can make for an amazing trip but getting it wrong and it can be the most horrific holiday experience ever.
Wow!! There’s nothing better than waking up to huge snowflakes falling on the campervan or realising the motorhome has disappeared beneath fresh snow – How exciting!
For me, the thought of crisp, white freshly powdered snow certainly has me wanting to venture off again to those fantastic ski resorts of Europe. However, it nearly wasn’t quite so inviting after our first experience of taking our motorhome.
Our first trip to the French Alps in a motorhome was back in 2005. Skiing was new to us at the time and so was our Swift Bessacarr – our first motorhome.
It also, turned out to be a swift learning curve (pardon the pun!), bringing many obstacles and a few surprises – although we absolutely loved it.
Temperatures Drop Drastically
Surprisingly, despite the temperatures dropping to a very cool -17C, this didn’t put us off returning year on year. However, it could have been a very different story if we hadn’t learned from our mistakes and adapted to make each future motorhome ski trip a success.
So here’s our tips to a stress-free trip and just how to prepare for a ski trip in a motorhome. After all you don’t want it to be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
How to Prepare for a Ski Trip in a Motorhome
- Don’t leave home without them.
- All the ski areas and approach roads will require (usually by law) vehicles to carry on board and use snow chains.
- Ensure you buy the correct tyre size for your motorhome.
We use both snow socks and snow chains however, some countries will only allow the use of chains.
Many European countries have recently changed their law on the use of Winter tyres. Therefore, countries or regions within countries now have Winter Tyre use as being mandatory between certain times of year.
This is typically between late October and early April but can be more specific to set dates.
So this means that you need to be adequately prepared for not only the law in the end country destination but also various regions of a different country country that you may drive through as well whole country law if that applies.
Confused? – Yes we are too!
Here’s a link to Michelin’s website listing the law in various European countries.
Fresh Water Tanks
External fresh water tanks will freeze. If you want fresh running water in the motorhome you’ll need an internal fresh water tank at the very least.
Be Warned – Internal Water Tanks can Still Freeze
On our first Ski trip back in 2005 we had a Swift Bessacarr motorhome. This was marketed as having Grade 3 Winterisation, but of course this was for UK travel. It wasn’t long before we realised it wasn’t geared up for the extremes of an alpine Winter.
Although the motorhome fresh water tank was located internally, inside the garage, it still froze. This was despite having blown air heating in here and putting a sleeping bag over the tanks. At the end of the day the harsh conditions were too great and we had frozen pipes, tanks and wastes even before we reached the ski resort.
This meant we had little or no fresh water throughout the trip. That’s because once the tanks and pipes freeze, defrosting is extremely difficult, no matter how hard you try!
External Fresh and Waste Water Tanks
External water tanks will almost definitely freeze – any insulation will only delay the inevitable.
So this means there will be no fresh water entering the motorhome and waste tanks and pipes will be frozen too. The result – no waste water will flow out. This will stay pooled in the sinks or shower tray and no fresh will come out the taps.
Waste Water Tanks – How to prepare for a Ski Trip in a Motorhome
So what’s the solution to help keep any water flowing?
- Leave open the waste drain and let waste water drain away into a shallow rimmed bucket beneath the motorhome – this will help stop freezing.
- This will need to be placed below the waste outlet – a horse feed bucket is perfect because it’s shallow.
- The waste water will then drain directly into the bucket ready for you to empty regularly.
- On our first ski trip our waste tank froze immediately and stayed like that for the duration of our stay. When we did open the sink taps and got a trickle, the water just gurgled back up the plug hole!
- A normal sized bucket will usually be too tall to fit under the motorhome, so check it will fit before you go.
Heated Pipes and Double Floors
Ideally, the best way to prevent freezing pipes and tanks is to have a motorhome with pipes in a double floor.
These often have a heating option to keep the pipes from freezing.
Keep The Heating On – How to prepare for a Ski Trip in a Motorhome
If you haven’t got heated pipes or double floors then keeping the heating on constant, even if it’s just on low is essential to help prevent freezing.
Heating Must Know – How to Prepare for a Ski Trip in a Motorhome
- Campsites in Europe don’t very often have a 16amp supply like we have in the UK.
- This means any electric heating won’t run effectively or have the capacity that you may be used to back home.
- Expect a supply of either 6 or 10amp at best – UK campsites are usually 16amp.
- Electric heating combined with other electric appliances such as lighting etc will sometimes trip the site supply at the pitch bollard.
- This will need to be switched back on – probably by taking a trip in the cold to the site office to ask staff to open the box and switch it back on.
- Even worse, if your bollard trips then it usually trips off the neighbours electric too.
Gas Blown Air Heating
- It’s powerful and keeps you toasty warm – but it uses a lot of gas!
- Unlike the gas hob, which uses less gas – a heating system eats the gas in those bottles.
- Take the maximum capacity gas bottles that your motorhome can legally carry.
- Think about buying a spare pigtail for the country you’re going to before you travel.
- It’s easier to then buy a gas bottle in country if you need to – without the worry of having no method of connecting it up.
- Remember Calor gas UK bottles are not sold in Europe.
Diesel Blown Air or with combined Electric option
- Diesel heating is powerful and very efficient, so will keep you warm without a gas bottle in sight.
- It’s best to fill up with diesel in an Alpine region. In the mountains, diesel will usually be a different mix, especially for Alpine conditions.
- Combined Diesel with an Electric option are ideal so you can have the electric control ticking over on low throughout the day with a boast of Diesel when needed.
How to Prepare for a Ski Trip in a Motorhome
Take A long handled brush
This may seem a bit odd, but taking a long handled brush is really useful! It’s such a great help to clear any snow off the motorhome roof and windows.
Put A Shovel In – How to prepare for a ski trip in a motorhome
A shovel is a really essential part of the motorhome ski accessory kit. You’ll almost certainly need one to help dig out the motorhome when snow and ice fall. More importantly, it’s great to help build an obligatory snow man.
Take Pieces of Carpet
If you take a few carpet scraps, these are a really good and cheap way to place beneath tyres. This then acts as a grip to help get the motorhome off both snow or mud on a pitch. We throw them afterwards, so no need to worry about drying them out.
What If you get stuck on a campsite pitch
Campsites usually have a tractor to tow a motorhome out if it gets stuck in ice or snow. Not only can this happen manoeuvring through the campsite, but also when you’re stationary on the pitch.
When ice melts off the motorhome in the sun during the day, it then drips onto the ground. This will then freeze around the tyres, so you can become frozen to the pitch.
Windscreen Wash – How to Prepare for a Ski Trip in a motorhome
We put extra strength windscreen wash in the wash filler and then keep the windscreen wipers off the windscreen glass when we’re pitched up. Otherwise, the wipers can freeze to the windscreen!
Silver Screens For Windscreen
During Alpine travels, silver screens on the windscreen are essential. To be honest, we put them on when we arrive and keep them in place throughout.
One tip is to just lower the top half during the day to let in light and sun – which will in turn warm the motorhome.
Park in a Sunny Spot
Parking in a sunny spot makes such a difference to the ski experience . Not only does it help to warm the campervan during the day but it also helps melt any snow and ice.
The Electric Lead
It’s a good idea to carefully lift up the electric lead out of the snow each morning. This not only helps to avoid freezing but also prevents the lead getting buried under any fresh snow fall. You should always disconnect beforehand.
Windows – How to prepare for a ski trip in a motorhome
If you’re motorhome doesn’t have flush fitting windows such as Seitz, try to prevent the build up of ice in the window frame.
Any protruding plastic windows can be more problematic in extreme temperatures. As melted snow freezes around the window, this can break the plastic window itself.
Being prepared for bad conditions – even en-route
Now then, it’s not just the Alps that can have bad snow and ice. Sometimes you can come across bad weather conditions even before you reach the Alps.
For example, we were once stuck in snow on the French motorway just south of Calais. On that occasion we were just a short drive from the ferry or shuttle when the snow fell heavily. No sooner had we arrived in France and the motorway closed.
We stayed overnight with lots of other people on a motorway services, whilst we waited for the motorway to open. Unfortunately, the snow ploughs tried to clear it overnight but only managed one lane.
Our journey did continue but on a snowy lane of the motorway following the snow plough as it parted the drifts.
Stock up with Food – How to prepare for a ski trip in a motorhome
In most ski resorts there are only a few small shops, so it’s difficult to carry lots of groceries back to the van. In reality, the last thing you want to do is move the van if you can help it, especially if it’s thick snow or heavy snowfall.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to stock up at a larger supermarket before reaching the ski resort. Once in resort you can then buy bits and pieces without the need of driving off in the van.
Take a Water Container and a Funnel
We take a small water container with us and a funnel, so we don’t have to rely on filling up the tanks with a hose.
- You can then top up the fresh water tank by hand as needed.
- Also, water taps on a site are often switched off during Winter, so there may not be the option of using a hose anyway.
- Water is usually accessed from inside a heated building, so we use a plastic sledge to pull the container back to the van!
A Ski and Boot Room
The great thing about staying on a dedicated Ski campsite is the facilities available. For example:
- Usually there’s a heated drying room for boots, ski’s and wet clothes.
- There may be a lockable clasp supplied on the storage racks, to keep your items secure.
- We take a padlock to lock the clasp and keep our equipment safe.
Taking a Shower
Shower blocks may very well be toasty warm but you’ve still got to walk there and probably don’t want to be taking bulky clothes.
- It may not be the best look, but we take a warm dressing gown and wear this to walk to the shower block. It basically saves taking lots of those bulky clothes into a narrow cubicle which can be super congested, wet and steamy!
A Christmas Ski Trip
Now it maybe a wonderful time of year, and we’ve spent many Christmas’s in our motorhome at a ski resort. However, there’s a few things you need to know:
- Most Europeans have Christmas at home, so you’ll usually have the site and slopes to yourself until Boxing day.
- Then, from Boxing Day until after New Years Day, it’s chaos!
- This is when both the locals and tourists arrive for skiing. Here they stay until the schools return in early January.
Travel Insurance Essential
I know many people who don’t bother buying travel insurance but in our opinion that’s simply madness.
We’ve had first hand experience of seeing some really bad accidents and the aftermath this brings in terms of medical treatment. Fortunately, the extreme bills being taken care of by the insurance company and not the individual.
The E111 or it’s new replacement World Travel card, is something we also take. Although, we don’t rely on this as a substitute for travel insurance.
- Travel insurance is so important but check it covers skiing and any other activities that you may do.
- This could be: sledging, toboggan, ice skating etc to name a few.
- Maybe think of those activities you want to take part in and double check it’s included in a policy.
There are some great campsites
Campsites in ski resorts often have a ski bus stopping regularly outside the entrance. Therefore, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting to and from the ski lifts. Most ski buses are included in the campsite fees but do check this prior to booking.
Finally, if the ski lift is just a few minutes walk away then you’ll be expected to walk there.
Last but not least, if you’re like us, you’ll love the whole snow and ski experience! So, have an amazing ski season and hopefully, we’ll hear, that you too will be returning year on year!