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Best ski resorts for driving to the Alps

Skiing in La Plagne

Driving can be cheaper, easier & more ‘eco friendly’

By James Hardiman


More and more skiers are starting to self drive to the Alps. Which is probably due to the rising cost of airfares and the post Covid trend which has pushed many away from flying and to the relative sanctuary of their motorcar. For, with a crossing via the Eurotunnel, your motorcar can take you from the door of your home to the door of your chalet without so much as coming into contact with a soul. Add to this the freedom to travel at your own agenda and take as much luggage as you like and you have the recipe for a successful and, (relatively speaking), pain free trip when you consider new and toughening rules on airline baggage allowances and their exorbitant costs.

But hang on a tick, I hear you say - let’s consider the environment for a second. Well here’s the thing. If your car is full of passengers, then your carbon emissions will be reduced by more than 65% when compared to flying, (so the experts tell us…). And do it all in an EV and you’ve reduced it even more. So well done you. Tick that box. And enjoy belting around the slopes and forget about planting trees (or other such twaddle) to offset your flight.

So which are the best resorts for self drive? Here’s my pick of the best. And yes, all of which we have driven to in the last year.


Morzine Ski & Snowboard Holidays

Morzine & Les Gets

8 hr 12 min (864.1 km) via A26

In the heart of the Portes du Soleil which makes up one of the largest interlinked ski areas with over 650 Km’s of piste, Morzine is a firm favourite with the Brit-pack and gets more than its fair share of reliable snowfall, typical of the Northern Alps. Morzine and Avoriaz are the two northernmost skiable outposts in the French Alps, they share a ski area that spans into Switzerland, (for extra variety), and further benefit from being one of the closest resorts to drive to from Calais. 

It’s a quicker drive up to Morzine but its comparatively low altitude should not be taken lightly - so please don’t lull yourself into a false sense of security that there may be less snow on the roads. Being very northern means altitude is less of a requirement for good snow and the road up can be just as snowy and needy of snow chains, as with comparatively higher resorts like Tignes and La Plagne.

Top tips: Drive straight the way there, it’s only 8 hours (or less without kids) and parking is rarely an issue in Morzine. It’s a large resort with plenty of free parking options or paid-for in the town centre. A car is very useful in Morzine as the best skiing can be more rapidly accessed via a short drive (or Navette ride) to Nyon, Ardent or Les Prodains.

Stay at Hotel Hermine Blanche voted top place to stay in Morzine by Telegraph 


Pretty Plagne Villages

La Plagne

9 hr 23 min (968.9 km) via A26

La Plagne is part of the extensive Paradiski area. Linked with Les Arcs it makes up the fourth largest ski area in France (approx 425 Km’s) and provides high altitude, snow sure skiing which is very popular with Brits. The resort has a large network of blue slopes which help beginner and intermediate skiers enjoy all parts of this excellent ski area. 

We’d recommend staying in La Plagne Villages which is one of the prettiest and most accessible ski-to-door villages in the La Plagne area. It's a shade over 2000 metres and alot more pleasant than Plagne centre which is typically high rise. You can still access the centre for pubs and clubs (if the local bars are not enough) via the free Telebus lift which runs until midnight.

Top tips: It’s a little longer to drive to La Plagne (but still doable in one hit) and we’ve often enjoyed a stopover on route near Chambery to arrive fresh the next day for an extra half day skiing. The 2023 lift pass in La Plagne comes with an extra day free so you can buy your standard 6 day pass and have an extra (arrival or departure day) skiing for no extra cost.

Stay in Plagne Villages


Tignes Le Lac


9 hr 56 min (996.2 km) via A26

Tignes is a little further up the Tarentaise valley and an extra (almost two hours) drive to its comparable alternatives - Chamonix or Morzine - so perhaps not one to attempt with kids or those of a lesser bent to travel. Tignes is part of the impressive ‘Espace Killy’ ski area - so named after Jean Claude Killy, local ski racer and triple Olympic champion in the late 1960’s.

Tignes is linked to neighbouring Val D’Isere and together they offer some of the highest skiing in the Alps with a glacier at 3,500m and a long season from November to May. If you like crowd free slopes and early season skiing then a road trip to Tignes should be on your bucket list. Expect lots of fresh and ‘squeaky’ snow and well groomed pistes; but also expect to share its peaks with early season ski racers and instructors as they cram in pre season practice in the only skiable domain, pre Christmas.

Top tips: A longer drive and certainly worth stopping en route in Chambery, Moutiers or Albertville. This will give you a fresh start for your arrival day and perhaps the motivation to ski the day you get there. We do, and we love this combination. Make sure you shop for groceries down the valley in Bourg st Maurice if you are self catering as prices in Tignes can be rather expensive.

Stay at Hotel Ski d’Or


Chamonix and Mont Blanc


8 hr 33 min (892.0 km) via A26

Cham’ is the second closest super-resort to Calais after the twin towns of Morzine and Les Gets. If you think you’ll enjoy an alpine city and a buzzing centre (which is not for most) then you’ll like it here! It’s not a personal favourite of mine, but Chamonix is the go-to place for many a Brit seeking steep descents and powder for backcountry freeriding. Home to Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain, Chamonix serves the tourist trade very well with most of its custom actually made up of non snow users by dint of its attractions: such as the Mer de Glace, the glacier snow train and the famous Aguille Midi accessed by the highest cable car in Europe.  

So, hats off to Chamonix! It is a spectacular destination with plenty to do on and off the slopes. Plenty of nightlife and shops too. However we don't like the disjointed ski area made up of several loosely connected ski villages (by bus rather than ski lift) which does make it a little awkward to enjoy. And its slopes, being of the steeper variety, do reduce the options for beginners and families.

Top tips: It may be a trifle specialist and the home of the alpinist, but Chamonix is a very popular destination and beginners can find easier slopes at Les Houches and La Tour. If you are intermediate level or under: then go for the package, the experience, and not just for the skiing - and you will be pleasantly entertained.


Meribel: One of British skiers' faveourite resorts

Méribel & The 3 Valleys

9 hrs (948.1 km) via A26

Méribel is a shade under 9 hours, although Google says it is 9 on the nose... making it the third closest to Calais, and all within easy reach for the self driving skier and family traveller. Meribel is another popular British destination, partly because of its historical underpinnings: a resort founded by Colonel Peter Lindsay in the 1930s. It has always therefore attracted a staunch British crowd, who enjoy its chalet style architecture, and slopes which make for some of the finest skiing descents in Europe.

Driving to Méribel is fairly straightforward and as you hang a right up the valley from Moutiers prepare to enjoy spectacular alpine views as you ascend to the village of Les Allues which is the first of the Méribel Villages. It doesn't matter where you come to rest in Méribel, all villages access the same ski area using a network of fast and free shuttle buses which is the most common situation with this sprawling village. If you are fortunate to be able to stay in a chalet close to its slopes, though rare, it will surely provide you with easy access to some of the finest skiing we’ve known.

Top tips: Parking is relatively easy and often free of charge unless you stay in the centre. We’d recommend staying outside the centre (but still close to the slopes) in the popular Musillon or Morel satellites. The Morel area gets our firm vote due to proximity of lifts and the shops or downtown Méribel centre which are only 5 mins walk away.


Courchevel at night

Courchevel-La Tania (3 Valleys)

9 hrs 4 mins (953 km) via A26

Courchevel and La Tania (neighbouring resorts) are again firm fave’s with the Brits. Courchevel 1850 is the preserve of the wealthiest (mostly Russian) skiers and traditionally to be firmly avoided if you’ve no wish to bankrupt yourself in seven days. However, now that the Oligarchs who’ve traditionally used Courchevel as their skiing playground are keeping a low profile since President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the resort seems intent on reinventing itself again. So who knows - perhaps it will become affordable again?

However as a self driving, self preserving Brit, you will likely want to avoid 1850 and head for one of Courchevel’s less expensive satellites, which, by contrast offer as much value as any other budget friendly ski area. And just for staying 200 metres further down the hill in 1650 you can enjoy bottles of wine in a restaurant for €22 rather than a jeroboam for €40,000 up in 1850.

La Tania (1550) is even cheaper to stay than 1650 and it accesses the same fantastic ski area and arguably has better local skiing than the rather dull and flat planes of 1850. So when you share the same lift and slope space as our Russian skiing friends - have in mind that your holiday will have probably cost about 50 million times less than theirs. Now there’s some satisfaction in that…

Top tips: Stay away from 1850 and jeroboams, and you will be in for a spectacular mountain holiday that doesn't cost the earth. Don't wear helmets with goggles built into them (very Russian), and fly the Ukraine flag from your balcony at every available opportunity.

Self Drive Ski Holidays >


James Hardiman

By James Hardiman

December 2022

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