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09-18-2012, 10:46 AM #1
living in a camper van in the alps for 2 months?
I'm going to the alps for 2 months the first of febuary to the end of march. I want to hit up some of the more low key ski areas. My question is should I rent a camper van, live and travel in that? Has anybody tried that before? Or should I buy the eurorail pass and stay in hostels? I've got a decent budget so either option would work financially. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
09-18-2012, 11:27 AM #2
Great idea but be aware that a lot of those cute little alpine villages, especially in Switzerland, do not want the scuzzy vagrant gypsies that try to park their vans for free around. I've known of more than 1 person who got hassled for sleeping in their car in SUI. France in general seems more tolerant as does Italy.
Eurail works much better in SUI and Aus than in IT or FRA: you can't get to La Grave, Alagna and a host of other spots by rail.Merde De Glace
09-18-2012, 11:40 AM #3
Where are the areas you want to hit up? I've, mostly, traveled by train/bus. It's great in Switzerland, ok in Austria (depending on where), meh in France and Italy. There aren't alot of hostels (or at least decent ones) in ski country, but there's usually a pension or something else around to stay relatively cheaply - and breakfast is included in the room price almost always. If it's a decent breakfast spread you can make sandwiches for lunch. Even with a pass rail/bus isn't cheap, but you can crack a beer and relax. If you want to go touring, or just end up at a different place than you started, it's easy. Particularly if you aren't bringing alot of crap. A smartphone would make/planning schedules much easier, as well as finding a place to stay in this era.
Couple times I've rented a car and slept in it - problems as buster mentioned is finding legal places to park overnight (a car you can poach easier, still). Often they are less than salubrious legal parking spots away from anything - make note of the .05 BAC. If you are renting a car/whatever for travel in Switzerland/Austria make sure it has snowtires, or budget to buy them accordingly. Stiff fine. Advantage is flexibility and ease of getting to some destinations. There certainly are people who do this, some even post here, hopefully they'll chime in.
Dunno, two different kind of trips really; other option is to split it and half and half, or longterm rent an econo car <- I'd tried to do this for my 3-month trip but couldn't make it work in the time I had/money I wanted to spend, I think it'd provide the best mix of flexibility/cost.
Last edited by Hugh Conway; 09-18-2012 at 12:05 PM.Lord King of the Beater-Kooks
09-18-2012, 11:49 AM #4
There really isn't a similar availability of space (where you'll be able to park a camper) compared to the US.
09-18-2012, 02:19 PM #5Registered User
- Join Date
- Jun 2010
- les Pays Plat
maybe you could use this site:
it lists campersites official and unofficial all over europe.
I have camped in my car multiple times in the alps (france, switzerland and italy) and never had a problem. I now have a work van: :-)
This is in San Bernardino last year, (on the border of Switzerland an Italy: powder hotspot when a southern storm comes in, or a 'Retour d'est')
Here i was checked by the suisse police, after staying two days. no problems though.
My bet would be to campervan through the alps. the best little resorts are hard to get to with public transport, and the big resorts are tracked out in no time.
09-18-2012, 04:16 PM #6
Is the Chamonix tram campervan community still there?
I campervaned in Austria the most, but mainly shorter trips and spring end of the season. Pitztal had a barren but huge carpark. I've heard that the Swiss Authorities can be odd with irregular behavior especially by foreigners.
09-18-2012, 04:22 PM #7Registered User
- Join Date
- Jan 2004
- North Vancouver
Didn't Mullitizer or someone have a tiny little Citroen car that he ripped the passenger seat out and make it into a plywood bed and spend a whole season car camping euro ski tour?
09-18-2012, 04:44 PM #8Registered User
Is the Chamonix tram campervan community still there?
- Join Date
- Jun 2010
- les Pays Plat
09-18-2012, 04:47 PM #9
Dude, it is France after all.
09-18-2012, 06:49 PM #10
Camper thing sounds sweet. Did half of last season in the western US in my truck camper and a month in the Alps doing the hostel train/bus thing. The Hostel thing was suprisinngly affordable and met some cool people. I could not believe how easy it was to take public transit, with ski gear, around Fr and Sui. The transit staff was always awesome. Woke up in Morgins, walked to the Post and told them I wanted to go to Zinal. Got on the bus and the driver said I would be skiing Zinal that afternoon. Guy told me the beta on 3 transfers and I was skiing by 1pm in a town 2hours away. Fucking sweet system.
09-18-2012, 06:52 PM #11
^^^ Shit now I want to go back. That will go over like a shit sandwhich with the wife.^^^^
09-18-2012, 06:55 PM #12
SHOTGUN! yes.... can't wait to visit.
09-18-2012, 07:06 PM #13
Camp site in Chamonix is open all winter, and for quieter, head around the range to Les Contamines, which has a nice little camp area all season. You can get into some ok touring and mountaineering from there as well, minus the Chamonix hype factor.
09-18-2012, 07:19 PM #14Lord King of the Beater-Kooks
09-19-2012, 12:22 AM #15
Do the hostel- euro rail thing. You would meet more people easily.
09-19-2012, 01:28 AM #16
Depends on the time of year....
Spent April 2009 traveling round the alps in a camper van. Started in La Grave and drove to Zermatt. At that time of year it was great - but mainly because it was spring and we could sit outside and dry our ski gear in the sun. In Jan or Feb living in a van would be really tough and cold.
Some ski resorts are better for vans than others - but we always found a good spot to park up for a night or two. Generally you need to drive a little out of town to find a good place.
Renting camper vans by the week is expensive - might be cheaper to buy then sell a van for a long trip. Also the camper van park in Chamonix near aiguille du midi is for permanent residents with a work permits only. I think you need dreadlocks and a wood burning stove to live there.... There are better places (at Les Houches!)
09-19-2012, 05:28 AM #17
it depends on how you plan to travel. if you want to follow the snow and ski lots and lots of untracked pow you will want to be as flexible as possible. small family style resorts off the beaten track are the bomb in this respect and i always try getting there asap after a storm hits. but getting there, quickly via public transport will be a PITA. if you want to ski in several different areas for a few days/ wweks and then move on, losing some time due to less efficient public transport, i dont see a problem.
i'd go for the camper but then i do tend to chase snow when possible, over here.White room,
09-19-2012, 10:26 PM #18Registered User
- Join Date
- Jan 2006
2010-2011 I spent 3 months storm chasing across the Alps in the back of a nissan station wagon the size of a wrx hatchback (fucking small to be exact). Shit my current GF even stayed in the back with me for 3 nights when she came to visit and I sucked it up and slept in the ultra tight fetal position! It was the BEST time I have ever had, EVER!
The alps are so compact and dense that when a storm hits from the north, south or east you really have to drive before it gets there. Like one day skiing in Sistrier sp? we saw it was going to dump in the Dolomities. We drove through the night, slept for 4 hours (me in my car and my friend in his hotel) and skied bottomless 4k' lines for 2 days and then followed it all the way back across the alps.
I NEVER had anyone bug me in my car, granted it wasn't an RV, but I also have alot of experience with incognito winter car camping here in the US and in Canada.
Cooking with my MSR Reactor out the side of my car in Bourg St. Maurice got me a hot shower and a bed from a nice english couple for a night. People were super nice and always showed you their powder stashes when they heard you were by yourself and sleeping in your car.
I have often thought about going back to the alps and just buying a season pass and staying in one spot but it is WAY too unpredictable there.
Mi machina is mi casa
Mein auto ist mein haus
I never learned it in French, way to hard of a language for me
Sonno alpino mi piache ill vino-say that at the bar and youll probably get a round of drinks (or weird looks).
Here are some pics I took if you want a look(sorry for the spam)-
09-19-2012, 11:58 PM #19
I almost got raped in that campground, if it is the one I'm thinking of, just outside of Cham towards Arg. It was NYE in 2000 when the F turned into the E. Big night to say the least. There were a bunch of German swingers that took the place over and forceably grabbed me into their dance circle.
I was overpowered by at least 4 big German dudes who were trying to butt fuck me. I was exhausted, but I was throwing as many punches as possible.
Thankfully, my climbing and skiing partner from Chi town still had some wits about him and started taking them down. They were hammered and all the Helgas were in on it too. There were scores upon scores of empty bottles and a boom box.
I remember sleeping in my tent held down by ice screws not so secure that night.
09-20-2012, 01:46 AM #20
I would go for the train/hostel option. Campers have too many downsides for me.
- finding available places to park. Not every resort accommodates campers. Very few if i were to guess (i'm only familiar with a couple spots in switz). So that will limit your follow-the-snow options. You might end up parking quite a way from the ski area and have to drive or bus it anyways.
- If you go rogue on parking, be warned about drinking. Even if you walk to a bar, get drunk, walk back to your camper and crash, if a cop wakes you in the middle of the night and checks your alcohol level, you will get thrown in jail, fined a huge sum, and probably deported for drunk driving.
- Feb can be bitter cold. Finishing a day of skiing in uber cold and coming back to a cold camper would suck. Granted they have heat but then you are stuck inside a box trying to stay warm. I'd rather come home to a warm room where i could relax better. Plus you will no doubt meet more people at hostels than in your camper.
Train/hostel would be much more enjoyable imho, especially if the cost isn't an issue. Feb/march are popular months, school holidays included, so you may not always be able to get a space in a hostel, so budget for hotels. If you do get in a hostel, you'll be under budget. A eurail pass may not be the cheapest option either, compare the cost to what you might expect in direct train travel. If you only move once a week or two, it might not be worth a pass. And if you meet other people, you might be able to catch a cheap ride to your next destination. Public transport reliability is near 100% in switz, probably austria too, less in france and italy.
My 2 centimes
09-20-2012, 06:04 AM #21
I am french and live in the north of the alps so I may be able to help you a bit
Both options have their pros and cons, but both are suitable.
RV will give you more freedom if you want to go in Fr and Italy and switch from one country to another chasing snow.
Ex: eastbound current: go in France. Northbound: italy. Southbound: swiss/austria.
Also, in Fr and Italy the train network does not allow you to access skiing place that easily like in Switzerland. You also have to consider the price of accomodation if you take the train, it could be quite a budget, except if you know how to make friends easily.
If I were you, i would rather take the RV option, but because I like to bring a lot of stuff with me
do not hesitate to mp me if you need some advices
09-20-2012, 08:34 AM #22
With group of 2 or 3 people a camper van is a great way to travel. Just go wherever, whenever. Though as a solo traveller I imagine it might be hard to be meet people if travelling in your own van.
IMHO the 2 problem when skiing in a camper van...
- getting wet kit ski gear dry
- taking a shower / wash after skiing
Both of these are not such big problems in the spring time... But would big issues in mid winter. Just take a solar / camping shower if your van doesnt have one inside
We never had a problem with finding a place to park in any ski resort (i.e La grave, Serre Che, Cham, Morzine, Andermatt, Engelberg). So long as your discrete and only stay for a day or two then no one will hassle you. In fact all those places we were only about 5 mins from the lift. The only places we had a small problem was Zermatt - but that is because parking was so expensive, even for cars!