Top Tips for Drive to Ski Resorts France

Written by on November 25, 2013 in Driving in France, Ski

drive ski holiday france

Drive to Ski Resorts France: French ski holiday enthusiast Penny Walker shares her top tips and steers you in the right direction for driving to your ski holiday destination in France…

If you are planning a ski holiday to the Alps this winter, you may choose to fly, take the train or drive to your ski holiday destination. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. I like to treat the trip as part of my holiday by car. It’s about 8-10 hours’ drive to the Alps from Calais if you use the excellent French auto-route network.

Drive Ski holiday France – plan in advance

The Bison Futé website  is an excellent resource for live traffic information. If there are major traffic delays on your route you can plan an alternative itinerary, which can save you tons of time, hassle and frustration en route.

Plan your route using one of the internet route planners like Michelin, AA, Google or Mappy.

Use the autoroute Péage (toll) system

The French auto-routes are so much quieter than the UK motorways and generally a real pleasure to use. The toll costs are worth the smooth journey.

If you are driving on the toll roads for the first time it really does help to know in advance how the system works. As you enter a tolled section of auto-route, you will need to take a ticket from the machine. Don’t lose the ticket! Keep it somewhere accessible along with some cash or your credit card (Visa and Mastercard are accepted on the network).

As you are leaving a tolled section of the auto-route, you will approach a ‘Gare de Péage’. Don’t head for a lane with an Orange ‘T’ sign indicating Télépéage unless you have purchased a Liber-t transponder in advance. The terminals in all of the other lanes, not just the ones showing CB or the card symbol, are equipped with a slot for credit cards. Some toll booths have an “attendant” symbol where your payment will be taken manually. Alternatively pop some cash into the machine (coins and notes) and change will be issued, the barrier will lift and off you go. Easy!

Autoroute service stations in France

Not only is there far less traffic on the toll roads in France, but using the service stations or ‘Aires’ is usually a pleasant experience. You’ll find there are plenty of lovely little pull-ins which are almost always situated in a gently landscaped environment set well back from the road. Simply equipped with toilets and picnic tables, they are perfect for a comfort break and a stretch of the legs. However, you’ll also find full service stations with fuel, restaurant, shop and toilet facilities and maybe even free WiFi. Service stations are indicated on the autoroute road signs and the website includes masses of invaluable information to help ease your journey through France.

Fuel costs in France

Although the major cost on the drive down to the Alps will be fuel, there are ways to minimise the expense. It is well worth seeking out the big hypermarkets which are often located just off exits from the auto-routes and where you can expect to save Euros against the auto-route filling station prices. Most of the French supermarket websites now incorporate a useful Google maps page which enables you to plan in advance where you are going to stop for fuel. Note that you will need a major credit card such as Visa or Mastercard to use the automated pumps which dispense fuel 24h/24h but don’t leave it until late at night or last minute just in case you have a card issue  – some machines seem to be picky.

Another great resource is the French ‘Prices of fuel’ website  which gives you up to date fuel prices at various outlets, including the auto-route service stations, within a chosen department.

Breaking your journey

How far you wish to drive before breaking your journey very much depends on your arrival time in France. The type of accommodation that you choose for your overnight stop is obviously a matter of budget and personal taste. You’ll find a great choice of welcoming places to stay, with good home cooked meals. Take your pick and make your journey to the Alps part of your ski holiday to France.

Legal requirements for driving in France

The list of equipment that you need to carry in the car when driving in France is ever-changing, but at the time of writing, the following equipment is compulsory:

GB sticker or Europlates, Headlamp adjusters, Warning triangle, Fluorescent jacket

If you are stopped, failure to comply will result in an on the spot fine.

Read more about driving regulations in France.

The following items are advisory:

Spare bulbs – All car lamps, lenses and reflectors must be in working order at all times – or you could face a fine.
Fire extinguisher – it is an offence in France if you fail to render assistance in the event of a fire or take necessary precautions to prevent a fire from escalating.
First aid kit

Radar detectors are illegal in France whether in use or not. If your Satnav is capable of displaying speed camera locations in France, at the very least you should make sure that you disable camera alerts before driving in France. You may wish to get a software or database update and remove camera data for France as the penalties for not complying are onerous. Be warned that it is not a legal requirement in France for cameras to be indicated – so be aware and don’t exceed the speed limit (Read more about speed limits in France).

Finally, don’t forget to buy snow chains for your car. In the mountains, they are obligatory wherever you see the ‘Equipements spéciaux obligatoires’ sign.

On that note, may I just wish you ‘Bon Voyage’ and ‘Happy Holidays’!

Penny Walker is the business owner of Stopover Connections, a specialist reservation service for handpicked B&B accommodation in France. She is a committed francophile and passionate outdoor sports enthusiast who lives in the French Pyrénées.

Related Articles

Guide to family skiing in Samoëns, French Alps

When booking your ski trip, there is often a trade-off between convenience and charm. Samoëns, in the Grand Massif ski area, just 1 hour and 10 minutes’ drive from Geneva airport, is a beautiful alpine village, ancient and French… It’s a tale of love at first sight for travel writer Rachel Ifans, whose guide to […]

Continue Reading

10 non-ski activities in snowy Les Arcs

10 non-ski activities in snowy Les Arcs

Written by on December 27, 2019 in Ski

Not everyone who loves mountains and snow, likes to ski all day long. So what is there that doesn’t involved racing down those snowy white slopes? Here are our top tips for non-ski activities that will make your cheeks rosy and mean you can really enjoy the snow without the skis! From adrenaline-fueled to totally […]

Continue Reading

Meribel: Little England in the French Alps…

If you crave beautiful Alpine runs, dramatic mountain backdrops, sun, fantastic ski conditions and lovely wide pistes – then you’ll certainly be in your element if you follow in our snowy footsteps to Meribel. Meribel – Picturesque resort As a seasoned skier, and regular visitor to the Alps over the last decade, I’m no stranger […]

Continue Reading

The best kept skiing secret of the French Alps | Skiing in Arêches-Beaufort

Dropping “my last ski trip was a short break in Arêches-Beaufort” into any ski based conversation is a bit of a polarising moment. The enlightened will beam from ear to ear, talk about the charm of the village, the enviable quality – and quantity – of the snow. And, inevitably, the wonderful cheese cooperative in […]

Continue Reading

Alpe D’Huez, the Island of the Sun in the French Alps

The French Alps are breath-taking no matter what season you choose to pay a visit. But if you’re fan of skiing then this impressive chain of picturesque mountains, which boast some of the highest and most spectacular peaks in Europe, will float your adrenaline-seeking boat during the winter months. For skiers at all levels, Alpe […]

Continue Reading


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.