Today the Gran San Bernardo Pass has reopened to the public. The pass, at 2,450 meters links Valais in Switzerland to the Aosta Valley in Italy. Lots of people came to the open ceremony. The opening works started by Anas personnel in April. Snow has accumulated on the sides of State Road 27 up to 12 meters of height.
Anas personnel started opening a gap in the snow reaching a stretch about 4 km from the state border. As the road was cleaned, the side barriers and vertical signs were also restored, removed before closing and stored to avoid damage due to possible avalanches.
A drive through the Nufenenpass (Passo della Novena) and Grimsel Pass in Switzerland.
I like having our summer holidays, whenever possible, near the mountains. And each trip, we need to try a new mountain pass. That is part of the adventure!
A couple of years ago, the idea was to stop by at Interlaken, on our way back from Lago di Como. Looking online, the best way to go was via the Nufenenpass (Passo della Novena) and the Grimsel Pass. The Grimsel Pass is very well known by everyone I’ve asked about, but the Nufenenpass, not so much. Some friends of us that have a house in Moltrasio, and whom their father lives in Lago di Como and knows ‘all the mountain passes’, have not heard of the Nufenenpass, but we’ve checked it out online and he suggested me that it should be fine as it was paved.
Looking in Google Maps, the pass seemed pretty wide enough for two cars – which was what I wanted to see, but I did not see too much of a guardrail on the side. Another option was to go towards Airolo and then Andermatt and take either the St Gotthard Tunnel, or the St Gothard pass. The St Gothard Tunnel was not an option, as this was a Saturday, where you can be stuck for hours. On our way from Engelberg to Lago di Como, we did the St Gothard Pass, which was very nice. It is very busy too, but at least the traffic goes through.
Going back this way, we should have taken afterwards the Furkapass, which is a very renown way to go – mostly for bikers and cyclists alike!
Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy
This past summer we went to have a holiday in the mountains. From Chamonix we were off onto Courmayeur. But it was a Saturday – what is considered here in the mountains as a Samedi Noir or Sabato Nero, meaning very long queues to cross the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
This past summer was ridiculously hot – even in the mountains – with the temperature being 31 C in Chamonix in the morning – imagine staying a couple of hours in line to cross the Mont Blanc Tunnel did not seem too much fun at the time.
I’ve asked the evening before some friends I have in Chamonix on how other way we could go – and how about taking the Petit St Bernard Pass. Arnaud Jamson, the deputy director of the Chamonix Tourism Office suggested me to go all around and stop in Megève for lunch, then go to the Lac du Roselend and from there go up to La Rosière to cross into La Thuile through the Petit St Bernard. This is a typical road for motorcyclists and bikers alike – many of these roads have been used by the Tour de France!
As I have a memory of a mosquito, I’ve asked at the hotel’s reception where I could get a good map, and I was told to go into the main street in Chamonix. There is a wonderful books and magazine store – that I could stayed for hours just looking around, where I bought the IGN Map of Route des Grandes Alpes. I love maps and this one was a great addition to my collection.
The Half Term Family Ski Holiday that did not result as planned
Our Family Half Term ski holiday is always decided one year in advance. Pretty much we always go to the Aosta Valley, as my youngest boy does not want to change location. I see it with my family, and I’ve seen it with many people over the years (even with myself when I’ve started skiing while much younger!)
You go to one resort, you get familiarised with it, and you don’t want to change! All is easy, and just changing to another resort, makes it too challenging. I see it as using an old pair of jeans, that you don’t want to change for something else!
So, we were set to leave the Friday before the half term- as my husband is the sole driver (for me it was too difficult changing sides of the road when I’ve moved from Argentina to the UK, that I daren’t do it again!)
Our car has been acting funny since September, when the Turbo went off. Then it started revving between 2nd and 3rd gears and we’ve took it twice to the mechanics. The first time we were said it was solved, but it was not, and I’ve took the car back in the garage two weeks before leaving. I did not have the car until the Wednesday of the week we were leaving – we were leaving at 4 AM on the Friday of that week and I was already very nervous about it and seeing if we could rent a car in the UK to cross to the continent.
Apparently, you can do so with Hertz and Avis, but obviously these cars do not bring roof rack, nor winter tyres or chains. So, I was budgeting all that just in case. My husband was saying that if we did not have our car back, we were staying and cancelling the trip, and my kids and me were completely distraught at the thought of it.
The car came out off the garage so then we were going to be ready to go. The night after taking our dog to some friends to look after him, my husband told me that the revving was still there, but that I should not worry. He was sure that this was not going to be anything.
Off we went with our skis, helmets, ski boots, all the paraphernalia you take when you go skiing. We set out in good time and at the Eurotunnel we were given a crossing one hour earlier, so we had time only to go to the bathroom and pick up some coffee and croissants to eat in the car.
We had a very good driving. Last year there was snow from home all the way to Folkestone and from Calais all the way to Italy. This time all the roads were clean, and the weather was beautiful, pretty warm too. This was not the best snow year for the Alps – (Austria and Eastern Switzerland got lots of snow, as well as other Eastern European countries like Romania), but for France, Italy and Western Switzerland the snow was ok, but just.
If your clients are planning to drive to the Alps or the Pyrenees after Britain leaves the EU on March 29, they might need some extra documentation.
For a start, they might need an international driving permit to be able to drive on European roads if the UK exits without a deal. If their journey will take them to several EU countries, they might need more than one permit. Each one costs £5.50 and can be bought at selected large Post Offices.
Assuming we leave the EU without a deal, drivers might also need a Green Card to drive their own vehicles in countries within the EU and the EEA as well as Switzerland and Andorra. Drivers must apply to their car insurance provider for a Green Card, which could take up to four weeks to arrive.
Drivers are also being advised by the Government to place a GB sticker on their cars, especially if they have a number plate that displays the Euroepan flag, to make it clear that they are from outside the EU.
When driving to the mountains, it is important to know the laws about carrying winter tyres and snow chains. Not all countries and states or provinces oblige you to wear them. I would suggest you to check before you travel. Even if there were no law for using snow tyres, I would at least recommend taking snow chains, because if you are caught in a big snowstorm, you will need them. If you can buy at least second hand winter tyres, do so. It is an investment, more if you are going to drive to the mountains each ski season.
Also, if renting a car, don’t assume the car will come with snow tyres, even if going to countries full of mountains everywhere, remember to request them when booking your car rental, and also reserve snow chains.
Here is a summary of where snow tyres are mandatory – please you need to do your own search, as this is not by any means 100% accurate- we cannot be held responsible for you deciding not to take winter tyres! Do your own homework!
When should you start planning your ski trip? For me it should be at least six months in advance to your trip, more if you are planning to travel in school holidays.
If you are travelling in the shoulder season (low season), such as early December – before the 20th), January, March in Europe (not in the US and Canada as they have Spring Break) and April (outside of Easter weekend), you can plan a bit more on top of the time and maybe see how snow conditions are.
For me, I need to know I have a trip in sight to be able to cope with routine. I always have my winter trip arranged by July (we go skiing with the family in February), and I do reserve the flat we use year-on-year as soon as we leave the place when our week is finished- so I book it one year in advance! That is because I have such a great deal, and my kids love going back to the same place, that is a no-brainer.
So where to start for planning your ski trip?
Well, you can try to start thinking where you want to go. Talking of the Northern Hemisphere- if you live in the UK as we do – are you going to drive (so that is only Europe and it would be France, Switzerland, Italy and maybe the Pyrenees’ or Austria, or fly, where you can add also the US, Canada or Japan. You can see the different websites with information on resorts and try to sort what resort is for the type of skier/boarder you are, or which one caters a diverse group.
Three hurt: Cars swept away by Swiss alpine pass avalanche. “Three people have been hurt after an avalanche swept away two cars attempting to cross an alpine pass in Switzerland on Sunday. All three were taken to hospital where their condition is described as non-life threatening.
The incident took place at around 2pm on the Klausen Pass that connects cantons Uri and Glarus in central Switzerland. At nearly 2,000 meters high, the mountain pass is still affected by snow and had only opened for road traffic earlier in the week”, reports Swissinfo.ch.
“Canton Uri police report that the avalanche struck 200 metres from the top of the pass, sweeping about 100 metres down the road. The injured car occupants were airlifted to hospital and a fourth passenger escaped from the incident unhurt.
So we left Pila that afternoon, came down the gondola to Aosta, drove to our house in Charvensod and packed the car. Off we left when the sun was setting down and said goodbye to Aosta, ready for our next adventure on our family half term trip– Courmayeur Mont Blanc.
We were not going to be long in Courmayeur, only a couple of nights. I have been there previously with the family every year having breakfast the last Saturday of the week, and recently visiting in November for a couple of nights during a working trip.
But I wanted to be feeling what is to be there, staying overnight and sharing it with my family. We arrived in Courmayeur and we had a reservation in the Edelweiss hotel, a 2* hotel right in the middle of town. As this was carnival week, it was extremely difficult to find a place where to sleep, more for only two nights, when the hotel owners could sell the full week. But thanks to some contacts within Courmayeur, I’ve got this hotel, which is very simple, but really nice. I would say it is more a 3*. Maybe the breakfast is simple and that gets it down to a 2*, plus the restaurant does not open for lunch and dinner (it opens for all meals only in the summer), and that might affect the star count.
Finally the day for our annual family ski trip started, and we’ve left home at 4 AM in the morning to take a 7 AM Eurotunnel. It was freezing cold and the motorway seemed a bit icy. We made it in great time to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone and we were allowed to board in early – Just a quick coffee and porridge for me, a bacon butty for my husband and some croissants for the boys with some good coffee before boarding on the train.
We were before 8 AM in Calais -first thing to do is to remember to drive on the right! I dare not drive on the other side of the road, I needed to learn how to drive on the left side in the UK and it confused me a lot. Luckily, my husband is better for doing so.