As sure as you’re going to have at least one spectacular wipe-out on the ski slopes, packing the car for a self-drive ski holiday will have you muttering under your breath and wondering whether it would have been easier to fly and rent all your equipment at the ski resort.
But keep the faith. As many holidaymakers know, there’s a whiff of romance to a long distance road trip, and during the winter ski season the traffic at the ports and on the roads is mercifully light – unlike the queues at airports.
Most of the popular European winter resorts are less than 10 hours from the continental coast. And once you know how to properly pack your car with ski gear, you’ll find everything slots into place like a series of deftly executed parallel turns.
Here’s how to do it.
Essential accessories for driving abroad
You can read our guide to the essential safety equipment you’ll need when driving abroad, here. Common accessories you’ll need to pack include high visibility vests (ideally, for all passengers), a GB sticker, breathalyser, spare bulbs, first aid kit and warning triangle. A couple of blankets and tow rope are also advisable.
And if your car’s headlight beams can’t be adjusted automatically using the car’s onboard computer, pick up a set of beam converters, too.
Check you are insured
If you don’t know, check whether your car insurer provides more than the mandatory third party cover when you drive your car abroad. If they don’t, consider taking out comprehensive cover for the time you’ll be abroad.
Also, if you don’t have vehicle breakdown recovery, ask yourself whether you’re happy to risk breaking down in the middle of nowhere in a foreign country. If the answer is ‘no’, shop around for the most comprehensive single trip, or annual, European breakdown policy.
Practice fitting snow chains or snow socks
Don’t set off without knowing how to fit snow chains or snow socks to your car. Trying to do so at the side of the road in the dark is not be an experience anyone would wish to repeat. Also, make sure they’re one of the last things packed into the boot, so they can be easily accessed once you reach snow covered roads, and a torch or headtorch will be useful if arriving at night.
Without a roof rack: use snowboard bags for your skis and gear
If you don’t have a roof rack, and are able to fold one of the back seats of your car, then you’re going to need something to carry and protect precious ski or snowboard equipment.
A snowboard bag is more accommodating than a ski bag, and when skillfully packed it should hold nearly everything you need for a week on the slopes.
Because they have handles, they can be securely fastened in place in the boot of a car, using bungee cords or nylon cable ties. Just remember to take a pair of scissors with you so you can release them when you arrive…
Snowboard bags cost from £40, although if you wanted one with wheels at its end you’d pay over £60. Make sure it’s a proper travel bag, rather than a protective sleeve bag, as it will be more spacious.
Packing the boot
Ensure that all the heavy items, such as the ski or snowboard bags and boots, are loaded in first, so you can keep heavy items as low as possible.
Place the things you may need during your journey, such as a coat, valuables or the snow socks for the car’s tyres, on the top of other materials.
Using a roof rack? Make sure it can be locked
Storing skis or snowboards on the roof means there’s no possibility of the bindings being damaged when packed into the car.
The most important feature you need for a roof rack is that that it can be locked to the car’s roof rails, and that the skis or boards can be locked securely in place. Theft from motorway service stations or ski resorts is not uncommon.
Roof boxes can be adapted to carry skis
Drivers who already own a roof box for their car may be pleased to learn that many manufacturers offer conversion kits that allow skis to be securely transported in the box.
Use a luggage guard
If your car is an estate or 4×4 or SUV, and the boot has a luggage guard or net, use it. In an emergency stop or accident, the luggage should be restrained from the passenger compartment. They’re widely available from Amazon, eBay or Halfords, and cost from £30.
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