It’s easy to hit traffic if you’re driving to a ski resort during peak weeks. The Saturday before Christmas 2014 was particularly slow, with heavy, persistent snowfall helping to clog the roads; cars were abandoned overnight in preference for warm, makeshift beds in nearby converted sports halls.If you’re unable to book a ski holiday during quieter weeks, don’t worry: with a little planning, your holiday can begin without a traffic jam. Here are my top five tips. (Note: if a transfer from the airport is included in a package deal, some of these options might not be possible: check first.)
1. Go for a ‘lost’ ski resort
Ski resorts are often accessible via just one road. A resort that accommodates 40,000 tourists will have a busier road than a resort for 5,000 or less. Booking a smaller resort away from popular spots reduces the risk of the road clogging up. As well as less traffic, smaller resorts tend to have less crowded pistes, shorter queues and authentic food. You might have to put up with older lifts and fewer restaurant choices, but you might discover a hidden gem. One not far from Geneva airport that I love is Mont Saxonnex (so small, their tourist website is only in French: www.mont-saxonnex.info). There are plenty more!
2. Depart ridiculously early in the morning
If you can’t leave a day early, prepare as best you can to avoid the traffic by getting out of the ski resort as early as possible. If you’re flying, take the first flight out in the morning so you can hit the road before the traffic has already reached a standstill nearer the resort. And if you do still hit traffic, at least you’ll be ahead of others on later flights.
3. Try a new country
It’s possible to ski in plenty of European countries. Visit Santa in Lapland, or pick a Scandinavian resort where you might see the Northern Lights. For something different, try Russia or Poland. Further south, consider the Balkans (Sarajevo held the Winter Olympics in 1984). Along with fewer crowds, you’ll be able to experience a new culture, with all its traditions, foods and fun.
4. Find a chalet with a Sunday changeover
Some chalets now offer Sunday changeover days, which means arriving a day later than most. The roads to the resort should be calmer and your final day of skiing on Saturday could be quieter as everyone else leaves. Privately-run chalets seem to offer this the most. If you’re flying to a nearby airport, you might have fewer flight options, but they might also be cheaper.
5. Arrive a day early
Nobody seems to be offering Friday changeover days, but that’s okay: you can still plan a Friday arrival. Overnight accommodation is typically available in villages that aren’t ski resorts, so find one near to where you plan to ski and reserve a room the night before your chalet stay begins. If you have somewhere secure to leave your luggage on Saturday, you can get up early and go skiing for the day! If not, you can get to the resort early and absorb the atmosphere in a cafe with a view.