Feature

Ski Greener, Pay Less and Get More Family Space By Driving to the French Alps

It may seem an impossible ask. First, and most importantly, you’d like to pay less for your ski holiday.  Second, you want a spacious accommodation option where your family can truly relax and be themselves but with space to escape one another every now and then, not all crammed together in a big hotel room. Finally, and simultaneously, you want to try to satisfy your children’s request (and your own inner nagging doubt) that your family do their bit in the fight against climate change by minimising your collective CO2 emissions.

Well, there is a way!

First book an apartment holiday in the French Alps, second choose one of the increasing number of big French ski regions that run on 100% renewable electricity (four of the six biggest already do) and third, drive to the Alps.

An apartment holiday is the obvious answer for a family ski holiday and something the French have been perfecting for half-a-century. Hop on the shuttle through the Channel Tunnel then drive down the modern, fairly empty autoroute to the Alps, stopping to load up with supplies in the French hypermarket.

The good news is that as well as saving a fortune on your ski week food and drink bill by doing this, the accommodation you can book is now far better than 20 or even 10 years ago, with much more spacious, higher-spec apartments the norm, and complexes that often have swimming pools and sometimes even spa facilities too.  But still, normally, slopeside or thereabouts meaning getting on and off the slopes is effortless.

Unlike holidays in hotels and chalets, you have the apartment to yourself, with your own bedrooms plus communal areas, so you can do things exactly how your family want to (However mad that may be!), without having to worry about other guests in the chalet or being either cramped in a single room or in separate rooms on a public corridor.

“Many of our clients choose to self-drive to the Alps, whether this is for budget reasons, for eco reasons, or for a longer stay.  With over 86 years of experience we are best placed to advise on where to stay, and which resort to choose,” says Jane Bolton, Managing Director of the world’s longest established ski holiday company Erna Low, who have been organising ski holidays by road and rail to the Alps for more than eight decades.

“The new generation of self-catering apartments such as the Residence Amara in Avoriaz and the Residence Amaya in Les Saisies offers spacious bedrooms and living rooms, wide-open communal spaces with fireplaces, pool tables, and work stations.  Many offer great leisure facilities too including indoor heated pools, saunas, steam rooms and massage and beauty treatments,” Jane adds.

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The even better news is that self-drive and apartment holidays not only remain by far the cheapest way to ski holiday, especially for families, but driving will see far less CO2 emissions for each and every one of you than flying.

In fact, if you do the carbon maths you may even find that your trip to the Alps actually ends up generating less CO2 than you do in your normal day-to-day life back home, because your emissions should be close to zero in resort.

True, the focus on minimising CO2 in ski holiday is on travel by rail, but as with many things, there’s a lot of variation between the headline figures.  Get three, four or five people in a relatively efficient car, even if you’re not lucky enough to be able to afford an electric vehicle, and the CO2 emissions per person should not be much more than rail.

And if you don’t live somewhere where you can easily hop on the Eurostar to France it’s actually likely the old diesel train you may need to get in the UK to reach St Pancras and get on the Eurostar is causing much more climate damage than your car.

© Tristan Shu / Les Arcs

But whether road or rail, it’s going to be far better than air.  A recent study carried out by Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds found that when five people drove to the French Alps from London in an ‘average’ car the emissions were 79 KgCO2 per person for the drive, which compared to nearly 320 KgCO2 per person to fly and then get in a transfer coach – in other words, a quarter of the flying total.

Of course, if you compare driving to the Alps to flying to Colorado say, the difference is even more dramatic. The study put the flight to Denver at  2,277 KgCO2 per person – almost 29 times more than that drive to the Alps, so you can actually tell your eco-minded kids that by not going on that long haul ski trip you’re helping save the planet.

As mentioned at the start, the lifts and snowmaking at four of the six largest ski regions in France are now powered by 100% green energy, in most cases using locally sourced hydropower.

SaveOurSnow.com which collates information on eco-friendly initiatives by the ski industry reports that the Three Valleys Lift Company which operates lifts in the world’s largest ski area the 3 Valleys including the skiing of Courchevel, Meribel, Les Menuires and Val Thorens, has been using 100% green electricity for more than 10 years.

In addition the country’s third-biggest, the Paradiski region combining the skiing of Les Arcs and La Plagne, has been using 100% renewable energy to power its ski lifts and other electrical needs since 2012 and the five resorts making up the Grand Massif ski area (Flaine, Samoens, Morillon, Les Carroz and Sixt), the country’s sixth-biggest, have also been 100% green energy powered since 2016.

Erna Low is a huge advocate for travelling by car to the Alps and the company enjoys a special partnership with Eurotunnel.  All clients travel with Flexiplus (equivalent to travelling Club or First Class on a flight) with access to the new Flexiplus lounges in Folkestone and Calais and benefit from priority boarding which is especially great over busy periods such as half-term and Easter.

The company is also working hard to minimise CO2 emissions from its operations and has advice for its guests on how they can ski greener too. The Erna Low team have also been busy raising funds for advocacy group Protect Our Winters UK.

The top five resorts recommended by Erna Low for shorter travel times from Calais by car are: Chamonix, Flaine, Samoens, Avoriaz and Morzine. However, despite being a longer drive into the Tarentaise Valley they report that many of their clients still love the convenience and safety of Arc 1950.  The village is truly car-free, all guests arrive and park in a huge car park under the village.

Erna Low offers 7 nights in ski in-out Arc 1950, France, arriving on 11th April for Easter with a saving of 10% on the accommodation price.  A 1 bedroom apartment for 4 people was £1,000 and is now £900 (£225pp) accommodation only or self-drive including Eurotunnel Flexiplus was £1259 now £1159. All apartments have access to a pool, hot tub and fitness facilities and the resort offers a programme of activities for children during the week, as well as having a crèche for little ones.