Points of interest

Stop offs on the way to the Alps, with Driving Dad

Driving to the Alps for a ski trip? It’s a no brainer according to Driving Dad.

Vowing to conquer Europe by car, Matt Hyotte (otherwise known as Driving Dad) and his family don’t let the ski season pass them by. Here’s his guide to driving to the slopes.

Of all the occasions that we choose to drive from London to Continental Europe, the ski trip has to be the most sensible. Even those most dubious about multi-hour car journeys can find some merit in avoiding the airports during the peak winter ski holiday crush.

Aside from the general hassle of getting to and from the airport with children and ski equipment, having to check oversized baggage, rent cars with snow tires or take airport transfers are all significant additional costs. And even flying takes at least six hours door to door to reach your ultimate ski destination.

Who’s ready to hit the slopes!?
Who’s ready to hit the slopes!? Credit: Driving Dad

So why not drive? There is something satisfying about methodically packing the car with your ski gear (including that extra chunky-knit snowflake sweater you got for Christmas that would otherwise take up three-quarters of your checked baggage allowance), loading up the kids and driving to Folkestone for a 35-minute Eurotunnel train ride to Calais. Not to mention there really is no substitute for cruising down the A26 motorway in France with the windows open and Arianna Grande blasting from the car speakers on repeat …at least according to my children.

This year the scheduling gods have blessed us with a mid-April Easter holiday, which provides the perfect opportunity for some Springtime skiing in early April. And while the slopes are the ultimate destination, let’s not overlook the journey itself. Here are two suggestions to turn your drive into a mini-break of its own.

Where to stop off on the way to the Alps

Alsace

Where in France: Grand Est
Drive from Calais: 663.8km / 6h 20m

Stopping off in Colmar is always a good idea.
Stopping off in Colmar is always a good idea. Credit: Driving Dad

If Central Switzerland, Western Austria or Northern Italy is your ski destination, you will inevitably drive through Alsace; and even if Alsace isn’t on your quickest driving route, it’s worth a slight detour.

The pastel-coloured, timber-framed houses and the crooked, cobblestone streets in the various Alsatian villages would not be out of place in a Disney film, which make Alsace a great destination any time of the year.

However, the Alsatian cuisine particularly lends itself to the chilly winter months. It’s difficult for even the sulkiest, most impatient child to detract from the experience of wandering the snowy streets of Colmar, finding a cosy bistro and getting your first whiff of the hearty stews and meats cooking away in the kitchen as you open the door. Other typical Alsatian culinary offerings inevitably on the menu are baeckeoffe, choucroute, snails, foie gras and local cheeses. The mild local sausages should satisfy the pickiest of children.

An aerial shot kindly given to my by one of the winemakers in Alsace.
An aerial shot kindly given to me by one of the winemakers in Alsace. Credit: SV Eguisheim

If the food alone isn’t enough to tempt you into an overnight stop, the other key draw to the Alsace region is, of course, the wine. On the edge of the Parc Naturel Regional des Ballons des Vosge, just off the N83 between Strasbourg and Colmar are the somewhat unpronounceable villages of Eguisheim, Riquewihr and Hunawihr and the more pronounceable villages of Ribeauville, Kayersberg and St Hippolyte. What these picturesque villages all have in common is wine. Whether you prefer a dry reisling or a sweet gewurtztraminer, these villages are the place to stock up with high quality, affordable wine for all your apres skiing needs.

Appenzell

Where in Switzerland: Appenzell Innerrhoden
Drive from Calais: 930.3km / 9h 2m

Do you take this cheese to be your lawfully wedded wife. “Yes, I fondue”
Do you take this cheese to be your lawfully wedded wife. “Yes, I fondue”. Credit: Driving Dad

The town of Appenzell is located in the rolling hills of Eastern Switzerland and is a good stopping point if you are heading to the ski resorts of Southeastern Switzerland or Austria.

In Appenzell, cheese is king, and the kingmakers are the ubiquitous Swiss Brown cows. You will struggle to find a restaurant in this quaint town without some form of Appenzell cheese; and why would you want to? Appenzeller cheese is made with a herbal brine - from the abundant herbs found in the hillside meadows above the town - that is rubbed on the cheese before aging. This brine gives the cheese it a spicy undertone and its distinct flavour.

And if cheese is king in Appenzell, then beer is prince. The Locher Brewery has been brewing beer since 1886 and has a tasting room and beer shop in town adjacent to the brewery. The brewery has a surprisingly large range of beers ranging from their Hanfblute, a hemp leaf flavoured beer, to their rich, malty Quollfrisch Dunkel.

The artistic beer labels alone, which depict local Appenzell scenes, justify the purchase of a few bottles (though it would be a shame to waste the beer). Not surprisingly, efforts have been made to brew some beers that match well with the local cheese. So not only can you get your fondue fix in Appenzell, you can stock up on some delicious cheese (conveniently vacuum packed in the grocery store) and a few cases of beer to bring back home – if it lasts that long.

A genius way to keep the Appenzell beer chilled
A genius way to keep the Appenzell beer chilled. Credit: Driving Dad

So next time the snowy slopes are calling, instead of worrying about navigating the airport, think about the adventures you can have on your drive!

Catch up on Driving Dad’s other adventures in the Champagne region in France, or the best Christmas Market in Monschau. Be inspired by Driving Dad and book your tickets with us in advance to take advantage of the best prices.