Skiing holidays require plenty of equipment and a hire car can be a useful and cost-effective way to transport groups and families from the airport to the resort, instead of a transfer. If you’re staying some distance from the slopes or you want to try other local resorts, or even just for grocery shopping, a vehicle can also provide that added flexibility once you’re there.
A 4×4 or Minivan would be recommended for any group wanting a vehicle in any ski area.
IMPORTANT CAR HIRE INFO
Driving though in winter conditions has its challenges and rules about winter tyres and snow chains vary from country to country, so here are some tips for booking ski car hire and making sure you stay on the right side of the law.
Generally, for the best deals and rates you should book your car when you confirm your flights and accommodation – the further ahead the better. Book directly with the UK office of a car rental company or through a reputable car hire supplier, such as we have partnered with below. Reserve a vehicle which is big enough to transport your passengers, bags and equipment – it may be larger than you’d need for a summer trip.
Remember that legally, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that the car meets local conditions even if it is a hire car, so check the requirements of the country you are travelling in. Your hire company should be able to advise you and the AA’s website is a useful source of country-by-country information.
As regards what you should look for then WINTER TYRES give better handling and stopping distances in snow and ice, as well as on wet roads where the temperature is below 7°C. They are made from a softer compound than summer tyres and don’t harden in cold weather, making the road grip better. They are compulsory for winter periods in some European countries.
In Austria, for example, winter tyres must be fitted for winter; for some Italian regions, they are mandatory from October until April 15; and in Norway from November 1 to March 15. Dates extend if conditions are poor.
In other countries (including France, Switzerland and Andorra) winter tyres are recommended rather than compulsory. However, car hire companies usually include a mandatory “winterisation fee” within their quote to include winter tyres and snow chains (and useful extras such as ice scrapers) as standard.
SNOW CHAINS give cars a better grip, but the tarmac must be completely covered with snow or ice – otherwise the metal will damage the road surface. They attach in pairs to the drive wheels of the vehicle. Some countries, including France, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Andorra and Italy require drivers to carry chains in the car so they can be fitted for snow-covered roads if local road signs require it.
Check whether the company’s winterisation fee includes chains. If not they must be ordered as an extra and can add up to around £60 to the overall cost. In some countries, a maximum speed limit of 31 mph (50km/h) applies when the car is fitted with chains.
It can be difficult to fit skis and poles into smaller cars without folding the rear seats down, so if you are carrying passengers, a roof rack with a ski holder or long roof box is certainly worth considering. Check how many pairs of skis plus poles it will fit, and whether it is snowboard compatible. Reserve well in advance, either online or through the call centre. Expect to pay around £40 per week.
An annual ROAD TAX applies on all motorways in Switzerland and cars rented in the country should provide a “vignette” attached to the windscreen as standard. If you rent from the French sector in Geneva airport, however, you may have to buy one for CHF 40, available at border crossings and petrol stations. There is a high, on-the-spot fine for non-display. The same “vignette” system applies to Austrian motorways, costing €8.90 for up to 10 days and again bought from the service stations as soon as you enter Austria.
Drivers are sometimes not allowed to take Swiss-registered hire cars into EU countries. This rule came into force in May 2016 and is a particular issue for passengers who want to hire a car at a Swiss airport for travel to a ski resort in France. Hire companies confirm that procedures are in place by asking customers where they intend to travel and will rent cars with either Swiss or EU plates depending on the customer’s destination. Check with the hirer that you have the right vehicle for your trip and as normally Swiss vehicles hired at Geneva airport include winter tyres, it is very important to check if it’s OK driving into France.
Last but not least we have the issue re deposits payable when picking up the vehicle. This is perhaps the most contentious part of hiring a vehicle when the car hire companies, on check in, request extra payments, unless prebooked, for extra damage cover if you bring back the vehicle, damaged/scratched/chipped. Prebooking such cover will save you a lot of money and grief and there are also separate insurance policies to cover such damage we can recommend…Indeed I have my own annual insurance policy for hiring cars. It is well known that you really can pay through the nose for this extra cover at the car hire check in desk and often causes widespread arguments. Always important to check your vehicle as soon as you can and preferably before driving off, though that’s perhaps not always possible. We would recommend that you have cover in place before picking up the vehicle, which also includes windscreen, tyre and roof damage.
Now drive happily.