When we set out planning our motorhome ski adventure we weren't looking to compromise on our experience but to fundamentally enhance it. Being able to chase the best snow conditions, experience a 'grand tour' of the European Alps in the winter and do it with our shell on our back had to come at a price surely?
We looked through all the books and apps available that list the aires and parking sites for motorhomes and we found the catch. On the face of it, the 'aire de camping car' sites looked a little off the beaten track. Not at all near the centre of the ski resorts as we had at first envisaged. We've very consciously avoided campsites where possible because our tour is about utilising the amazing alpine aires rather than parking up in the campsites that service some of the major resorts - much as the temptation is strong at times we've only given in once!
What we've been met with is so much more than we could ever have hoped for. We've largely avoided the bigger resorts in favour of the ski stations that surround them which are often linked to the main ski areas by lifts or buses. These picture postcard villages are welcoming to travellers and not over run by rowdy après-seeking tourists, so they're just our thing.
The position of the aires has been fabulous - yes, they are on the outskirts of the villages, which in summer often means a hike into town for supplies or to soak up the alpine atmosphere. However, in winter you can often ski almost to your door if you pick your route carefully and ski a little off the beaten track!
The one place so far that has broken all our preconceptions about motorhome winter living is Alpe d'Huez. A mega-resort by any standard, it's known as the ‘Island in the Sun’… and boy have we had some sun! We've also had several feet of snow and as we depart today, more is due.
The most surprising thing about this resort, specifically the aire, is that it has by far the best views of all the accommodation in the entire resort. Whilst we benefit from uninhibited panoramic views of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region with seemingly endless snow-capped mountains, one of the priciest catered chalets in the area has a view of our roof. Not that there's anything wrong with it, and not that we as motorhomers see a 40 berth camp ground as an eye sore, but I'm sure I would be a smidge jealous if I were them!
One of the beauties of winter touring is that most motorhomes completely blend in with the surroundings - everything's white so nobody really has anything to complain about... but our view is better!
In fact, in the glorious sunshine when the motorhome admin tasks aren't a challenge, there's nothing about being in a hotel on a 7 days, 6 nights package that trumps #vanlife.
As we watched the last lot of tourists depart on changeover day and the new lot come in, we realised that we'd had a full week of amazing conditions and neither group could claim that. As this latest lot face 4 days of blizzard conditions, we're off to pastures new – as our Elddis motorhome allows us to be utterly flexible. We're not just snow chasing, we're mountain sun worshippers too!
In case you're interested in the maths, the price per night of the hotel behind us is £160 per person for 25msq. Our 14msq spot is costing us €11 all-in, with water, waste and electric battery top up if required. Our plot also benefits from free access to 69,711 km² of open countryside, and has its own water supply from a crystal clear glacial waterfall. If you should wish to pop to one of the local peaks for a spot of lunch, you can utilise the services of the airport (with helipad) just 40 yards away where you can catch a private transfer for just €70 return. In fact, we might do that later and we'll still have change from the cost of staying in the place behind us!