Here we try and give some advice about driving from the UK to La Tania – something many people dismiss as really not viable compared to flying. In reality, it’s probably the best (and least stressful) option
Our return to skiing, after a break when the children were very small, was in 2003. The grandparents looked after the children (3, 7, 12), so it was just Melinda and me. We flew to Geneva and, as I remember, caught the bus to Les Prodains and then the cable car to Avoriaz itself. It was an easy trip and as relaxed as air travel can ever be.
The following year we decide to take the children. We flew to Geneva, caught the bus to Les Prodains and the cable car to Avoriaz. The experience is seared on my memory. I swore I would never do it again and I haven’t.
But the children all caught the skiing bug (especially Ted, who was 4 at the time), so not going skiing was not an option.
Therefore, we had to drive.
I was not someone who, up to that point, had driven long distances in Europe. We had toured in both an elderly motorhome and a car, but at a leisurely pace and never with the sole intention of getting from A to B as quickly as possible, so I was a little apprehensive.
The trick is the 7Ps, which you can find here if you are not familiar with this British Army maxim.
Before we get into the detail of the best way to get from the UK to La Tania by car, allow me a short diversion.
Some five or six years later, Ollie (our elder son, then around 18 or 19) laid a Top Gear type challenge before us one dinner time. “I bet it’s quicker to get to our apartment in Avoriaz by public transport than it is to drive”. I’d love to say we proved this one way or the other empirically, but sadly we never got around to it and had to settle it theoretically. It turns out the car has it by some margin, but then we lived in rural north Devon at the time, so getting to the nearest town on the bus probably took longer than the actual flight.
The first thing to do is get yourself a Télépéage tag. This enables you to go through the péages without stopping and, at some barriers, at up to 30km/h. Not only does this save a lot of time queuing, but you can also have some fun with other UK registered cars following you who may not have the tag….
Ours is a SANEF tag (SANEF operates part of the autoroute network), provided through their ‘Bip&Go’ subsidiary. We are charged 2€ for every month we use the tag (plus tolls, obviously), but they often run promotions which means you may get it more cheaply.
We always use Eurotunnel for our channel crossing. Generally speaking a ferry crossing is slightly cheaper, but the time saved is worth it; 35 minutes which is about a third of the Dover – Calais ferry time and, of course, much quicker than the other crossings. If you shop at Tesco, you can use your Clubcard vouchers towards the cost.
I know a lot of people like to take a night crossing, and that makes a lot of sense if you are using one of the longer ferry crossings from Plymouth or Portsmouth to Cherbourg or Le Havre which gets you to France at a respectable time after a good night’s sleep. If you are heading for Calais, though, I suggest booking a crossing early in the morning, around 6am to 7am. Driving through the night and arriving in La Tania early for an extra day’s skiing sounds a great idea, but in our experience, you arrive very tired and the last thing you want to do is ski (and it’s probably dangerous). In addition, by the time you’ve arrived, sorted your stuff out, put your kit on and got out on the piste, it’s more like a half day’s skiing
Wherever you’re coming from in the UK, even if it’s the south or south-west, I would always recommend Calais. Not only is the crossing shorter, but your journey in France will be easier too. From nearly all the other ports in northern France, all roads lead to Paris. Le Havre to La Tania is about 60 miles shorter, but the journey is more complicated, and you’ll have to navigate round Paris.
If you have made the wise decision of an early morning Eurotunnel from Calais and you live more than an hour or so away, you might want to consider staying at the Premier Inn, Folkestone. Not necessarily because it’s clean, comfortable, relatively cheap and has a restaurant attached, but mainly because it’s more or less in the Eurotunnel Terminal, which means a stress-free start.
Once you get to Calais, you may want to refuel to avoid expensive autoroute prices. Don’t use the Total garage as you leave; it’s very expensive and there are nearly always queues. Just before that, there is a turning on the right to the Cité d’Europe. Follow that and the little sign with a petrol pump and ‘7/7’ and you will find a Carrefour filling station which is very cheap (relatively). It’s easy to find and easy to get onto the autoroute.
The trip from Calais to La Tania is 600 miles and takes between 9 and 10 hours. There is usually a lot less traffic on the autoroutes compared to UK motorways, especially on a Sunday, so in our experience the driving is easy and stress-free. It’s a bit boring and flat for the first three-quarters, but once you get down past Dijon things get more interesting as the Alps and their foothills begin to emerge.
If you have managed to get away from the Eurotunnel Calais terminal (it takes less than 10 minutes to off-load and be away) around 8am, you can expect to be in La Tania between 5pm and 6pm. That’s the perfect time to arrive! Perfect for you as you can offload your luggage in your rooms have a chat with us and head off to the Ski Lodge (other bars are available!) for a pre-dinner drink. It’s perfect for us, as check-in is 4pm earliest, so your room will definitely be ready and we won’t be in the midst of preparing dinner!
Here is the route from the Eurotunnel terminal in Calais (from the Carrefour petrol station you still join the A16 but one junction west):
- Follow the blue signs to the A16 (Dunkerque, Reims);
- Head east on the A16 for about 5k until you get to the junction for the A26
- From there it’s A26 south to Reims
- A short stretch of the A4 around Reims
- A26 again to Troyes
- A31 to south of Dijon
- A46, A432 around Lyon (not complicated – follow the Grenoble and Saint Exupéry airport signs)
- A43, becomes A430 after the bridge over the river Arc
- The A430 ends after you cross the Isère and becomes the N90
- N90 to Moutiers. This is the most complicated bit! Don’t come off at J39 or J40 but make sure you follow the Courchevel signs (see image). Keep right and you will pick up a La Tania sign.
- From there you can’t really go wrong; just follow the La Tania signs!
- As you approach La Tania you will pass the La Tania sign on your right. Take the first left – route du Plan du Saz – and we’re about 500m up the road. See plan.