Winter Driving in The French Alps (Part Two)

By: Lewis Williams (member of the Mountain Rescue Team)

In our previous post on Winter Driving in The French Alps we discussed snow-tyres and accessories for successfully navigating the wintery wonderland of the French mountains. In this follow-up post we share advice on the basic preparation and driving skills that ensure our drivers are always on time, whatever the weather.

The Basic Kit

All our vehicles carry spare bulbs, warning triangle and high-vis vests as French law requires. Our fleet are equipped with Nokian snow-tyres and carry snow-chains stowed in an easily accessible place.

In addition to these essentials we recommend carrying:

  • ice scraper
  • torch (for attaching snow chains in the dark)
  • first aid kit
  • jump leads
  • gloves (for attaching snow chains)
  • shovel
  • sunglasses (to look good! …and because of the low winter sun)

Preparation

We pride ourselves on being bang-on-time to collect guests. How do we do this? Time! …and lots of it!

Our drivers are given ample time to reach their guests, especially in challenging conditions. This enables them to prepare their vehicles and have time to cope with any unexpected delays.

To prepare we start the vehicle, turn up the heating and screen de-mister, turn on the headlights (to melt any ice), have a brew and check the road conditions in the Tarentaise valley. Then clear all snow from the windows, mirrors and the top of the vehicle with a broom (braking on an steep descent can cause snow on the roof to slide over your windscreen and severely restrict your view). Finally, dig out any snow from around and in-front of the wheels.

Then once all that powder and ice is cleared run through the POWDERY checklist:

P - Petrol (or diesel) - Got more than enough fuel for your journey?

O - Oil - Got enough oil?

W - Water - Got radiator water? Screen-wash? Drinking water?

D - Damage - Check vehicle for damage. How are your windscreen wipers?

E - Electrics - Are your lights, heating and de-mister working ok?

R - Rubber - Check tread and inflation on tyres. Are your chains or socks easily accessible in the vehicle?

Y - Yourself - Are you rested and feeling fit for a long journey?

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On The Road

Obviously, it is sensible to drive at a lower speed on snow or in cold temperatures. Even if the road is clear of snow, ice may persist. Gain traction by staying in a high gear and accelerating gently and when breaking softly apply pressure to the break pedal. If you have a safe place, away from other road users, try your brakes a little harder to get a feel for the grip on the road.

It is possible that not all road users are as vigilant, careful and considerate as you. Check your mirrors often, keep your distance from vehicles in front and don’t feel pressure to accelerate away from vehicles that are too close behind. Pull over at a safe place to let impatient drivers pass. Drive defensively, it is best to concentrate on your own driving and not let other road users phase you.

To add a bit more spice to the winter conditions we have to contend with hair-pin turns (or ‘switch-backs’). The best method to negotiate an acute turn is to break slowly on the straight before the bend then steer smoothly round the bend without sudden breaking or change of direction. (Vehicles can slide when simultaneously braking and turning on ice). With a little practice this becomes second nature.

When do we need to put chains or socks on? See this blog post.

Fog

In the mountains it is common to encounter fog. Use your fog lights and switch off full beam (full beam can reflect back from the droplets of water in the air making it more difficult to see the road). De-mist your screen as this can mist up unnoticeably. Reduce your speed and don’t be tempted to follow the tail lights of other vehicles too closely!

In the event the fog becomes too dense, don’t panic, pull over and wait… fog is often patchy and may clear as quickly as it arrived.

More Mountain Rescue Tips!

  • Check your route - many mountain roads and passes are closed in the winter
  • Take major roads as they are ploughed more frequently than minor roads
  • Respect the snow ploughs - do not try and overtake unless you have a snow-free lane available
  • Be vigilant of buses and large vehicles on hairpins - they may need to ‘swing out’ to make the corner
  • When parking on an incline turn your wheel toward the side of the road - so if your vehicle slips or is nudged it goes into the verge
  • When parking your vehicle lift your wipers - this prevents them freezing to the windscreen or being damaged from heavy snow, especially if you accidentally left them on

And Finally

Our professional drivers spend a lot of time on the road and although the majority of journeys are on snow-free roads we often encounter adverse conditions. We see how quickly the weather changes and how easy it is to be ‘caught out’. In such circumstances experience becomes a key factor, but we hope our winter driving advice highlights that with good preparation, lots of time and conscientious driving, risk and delays can be minimised.

Bonne route et bon ski!

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Ski chalet in the snow

Top five reasons to visit The Three Valleys

Good Reason

By: Molly (working on behalf of Alpine Infusion)

Everyone in the world of skiing has heard of the Three Valleys, and for good reason.

Surrounding visitors with awe-inspiring scenery and world class resorts, this internationally revered skiing area remains to be of huge importance to seasoned professionals and newcomers alike.

Consisting of the valleys themselves, namely Saint-Bon, Allues and Belleville, this is the largest skiing area in the world, which includes the famous Courchevel and Meribel. All three are accessible by connected lifts, with a wide range of slopes, activities and events to carve your skis into all year round.

From the restaurants to the accommodation, the reasons for visiting the Three Valleys are endless. To help save some time, we’ve narrowed down our top five reasons to visit the Three Valleys so you know what to expect.

You’ll want to Visit More Than Once

With its vast size and scale, you won’t run out of piste options or ski runs during your time at the Three Valleys. You’ll never need to descend the same piste twice either, as there is so much to explore and descend. All these different options mean everything is always fresh!

It also allows you to be choosy when it comes to resort options. Eight different locations provide enough choice to ensure you find the essential, perfect place that suits you.

You’ll want the perfect accommodation to keep you cosy too, and at Alpine Infusion there’s nothing but the highest quality chalets.

25 accessible summits, 321 Alpine ski runs, 169 ski lifts and over 600 kilometres of interconnected ski runs are at your disposal. Visiting the Three Valleys more than once is common practice, and you’ll find something new with each trip.

It’s Not Just for the Winter Months

The Three Valleys may be tightly associated with snowy ski sessions, but there are heaps of alternative activities available throughout the year. Even during the sunnier season!

Enjoy hiking throughout the mountains discovering the impressive terrain, scenery and views. This is an excellent place for mountaineers, bikers and explorers, with miles of path to conquer. Be sure to bring your walking boots!

You’ll also want to make the most of the excellent shopping opportunities and bag yourself some gifts to take home. Spending cash is a must.

There’s No Better Place to pick up the Basics

In need of boosting your skills when it comes to the ski slopes?

There are so many pistes, resorts and options at your fingertips that finding a routine and a starting slope is an easy task. Tailoring your skills and building up your confidence is a fantastic experience in the Three Valleys, as you learn surrounded by picturesque alpine scenery.

Choose from a Host of Leisure Options

If restaurants, night time bars and cafes are your priority, then Three Valleys has got you covered. Each of the resorts available has its own unique atmosphere, social life and night time vibe, offering fine foods, alcohol and atmosphere.

Be sure to book a trip during more festive seasons, as special events and unique performances will be available. Larger resorts, such as Courchevel and Meribel, offer up a variety of activities throughout the year, even in the less-than-favourable January month.

So make sure to research what’s happening at your chosen resort before you travel!

Any Ability is Welcome

The Three Valleys is one of the best places to bring a family or large party for a collective skiing experience.

If expert slopes are more your area of expertise, you can choose to take on the more intense black pistes, or soften the experience with a green run. It’s up to you how intense you make your holiday, and any level of ability is welcome at the Three Valleys!

Plan ahead and look up the slopes available to you during your trip. Picking out the ones you want to descend will save you time and free you up for more sessions on the skis!

Feeling convinced? If you’re looking to head to Courchevel or Meribel, get the highest quality experience with Alpine Infusion. You can choose from a range of award winning, luxury chalets that provide a cosy atmosphere and world class service.

family eating fondu

The best ski holiday with the kids in Sainte Foy

By: Simon Wilkinson (member of the Mountain Rescue Team)

We were recently asked by bloggers How to be a dad if we could assist them on the transporting them from Grenoble airport to Sainte Foy ski station for their family holiday. We had been recommended to them by Venture Ski the chalet company that they were staying with.

We have a vehicle hub based in Sainte Foy and work with several chalet companies there so it’s one of our most popular destinations and for good reason. Sainte foy is defiantly one of the best ski resorts in the Tarentaise when looking for a winters get away with the kids. It has a really special feel with great ski schools wonderful flowing pistes and an amazing selection if catered chalets situated close to all the action.

The How to be a dad family decided to use our transfer service over hiring a car or jumping on a shared coach transfer so that once they landed in Grenoble they could sit back, relax and let us transport them directly to their chalet in one of our comfortable Volkswagen Caravelle minibuses.

Our private transfer vehicles will sit 6 passengers in the rear and 2 up front. We supply child seats free of charge, simply request them when booking and (subject to availability) can even supply I pads full of fun to entertain the kids.

The family of 3 had a wonderful trip and also recommended Tignes Spirit Rentals for ski hire thats is brought directly to your ski chalet rather than going to a ski hire shop, the PDS Academy a British ski school for ski lessons and of course Venture Ski for a wonderful stay. The How to be a Dad family called it the best ski holiday they had ever had.

Check out this video and see just how much fun they had 🙂