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Alps: Sleeping in your car?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

For the last 15 or so years I've taken a lot of trips in the Western US where I ski during the day and at night unfurl a sleeping bag and bed down in the back of my car/truck/station wagon/etc. I find a deserted road or a plowed pullout or even the edge of a ski area parking lot. I have a very warm bag, headlamps, my own food, and no one seems to ever know I'm there. I've never been bothered or hassled, but once near Crystal in Washington moved in the middle of the night because some unsavory characters cruised by me a few too many times. Since I'm cheap, sleeping in the car often provides a much nicer atmosphere than sleeping in a rock bottom motel.

 

Can I do this same sort of thing in the Alps, particularly in Italy or Austria? I'd be using a rental car but still have a bag, headlamp, groceries, etc. I've been skiing in the area but never had my own vehicle and never paid much attention to if there was a quiet place to park for the night. Do police patrol back roads and parking lots? Are most roads too busy at night? Or are there even laws against it?

 

Thanks.

post #2 of 13

Hopefully somebody will be able to give a more in-depth response. Mine is just what I've witnessed skiing in Europe.

 

What you have to keep in mind is that the Alps are much more populated than most places where people ski in the American west. If you're skiing at Crystal Mountain, you have to drive all the way to Greenwater before you reach a population center. Most resorts in the Alps have a reasonably sized village directly at their base. The question is whether this is more or less conducive to what you're looking to do.

 

Most of the those villages will have a designated camping (carivaning) area on the edge of town. It will be full of tightly packed RVs and will be priced moderately (not cheaply). Finding a secluded place to part is probably going to be more difficult, although you may have a better chance of just parking on a residential street and not getting bothered (for a day or two). I think you can probably forget about resort parking lots.

 

The only place that I have every seen the sort of on the fly camping you're talking about is Sport Gastein in Austria. I saw several people quite openly camping in their cars right in the parking lot. It may not be a coincidence that there is no village at the base there.

 

Good luck, I hope it works out.

post #3 of 13

You might want to check out the rental car price before going much further in that direction.

 

Also, unlike in the US, a lot of resorts have cheaper lodging than in the US. Single rooms are quite common place. Meals inclusive plans can be had for not much more than the room itself.

 

Work out the cost. You maybe more comfortable without paying more...

post #4 of 13

Go to a large resort. Then you don't need a rental car. You can get to a ski resort by public transportation. You can stay at one of these resorts for weeks and will not be bored quickly. The big resorts in the Alps a HUGE compared to resorts in western US. Think of making one resort of Snowbird, Alta, Solitude, Brighton PLUS Park City, The Canyons and Deer Valley! About that size... 

All these seven Utah resorts together have 96 lifts (Alta 11, Snowbird 13, Solitude 8, Brighton 7, the Canyons 17, Park City 16, Deer Valley 24).

 

Big resorts in the Alps are: 

France / (Switzerland):

Les Trois Vallees (606km of runs, 183 lifts)

Portes du Soleil, located in France and Switzerland (650km of runs, 211 lifts), 115km from Geneva Airport

Both areas claim to be the largest ski areas of the world :-)

 

BUT!:

Hard to compare though because European resorts measure miles (km) of runs instead of skiable area and do NOT allow skiing of the runs!!!

So we try to travel each year to the US to ski powder (which is way better than in the Alps).

But the question was about sleeping in a rental car and for that money I would rent a room and stay at one resort :-)

 

 

post #5 of 13

What??!!  Never heard this before.  Seriously?

 

Quote:
Hard to compare though because European resorts measure miles (km) of runs instead of skiable area and do NOT allow skiing of the runs!!!

 


 

 

post #6 of 13



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jaytierney View Post

What??!!  Never heard this before.  Seriously?

 

 


 

 



I think he meant to say they don't allow skiing OFF the pistes, which isn't completely true.

 

Basically, they don't do any grooming or avalanche control on anything outside of the marked trails unless it's an area that could potentially slide onto a piste. Many also don't mark the hazards that lie off piste, so you can easily find yourself on top of a cliff if you decide to ski a line you haven't fully scoped out from top to bottom. So, if you go off the marked trails in search of powder, you're skiing that at your own risk (and it can be a considerable risk in some conditions).

 

But, apart from the trees, which are off limits in Austria and most of Switzerland, there's usually nothing preventing you from going off piste. In fact, just about every resort has a guide company that relies on people paying them to show them around off piste.

 

post #7 of 13

Setting aside the high cost of renting a car and gassing it up, I think you could probably find places to sleep in-car a lot of resorts. But parking is by no means guaranteed. You might be confronted with paid day lots, that are cleared at night, or on-street parking where you could be subjected to a fine. Or even parking garages, which depending on your point of view could be good or bad.

 

My sense is that the best approach for budget skiing the Alps is avoiding the car altogether (unless you live here and own one). Public transportation generally isn't as good in the mountains as elsewhere, but it's still a LOT better than in the States. There are either buses or trains to every European resort of any size, and generally also transport of some kind from outlying villages that have cheaper lodging. That's the route I'd go. It would also be more comfortable and afford you something of an experience too, eg, renting rooms from Austrian villagers, etc.

 

Having said that, sleeping in your car would probably work just fine, 'cause no one would expect it. I'd move every night, though, 'cause you'd always be in front of someone's house, really. Not too many deserted roads to be found, at least not close in to resorts.

post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by CerebralVortex View Post


I think he meant to say they don't allow skiing OFF the pistes, which isn't completely true.

 

Basically, they don't do any grooming or avalanche control on anything outside of the marked trails unless it's an area that could potentially slide onto a piste. Many also don't mark the hazards that lie off piste, so you can easily find yourself on top of a cliff if you decide to ski a line you haven't fully scoped out from top to bottom. So, if you go off the marked trails in search of powder, you're skiing that at your own risk (and it can be a considerable risk in some conditions).

 

But, apart from the trees, which are off limits in Austria and most of Switzerland, there's usually nothing preventing you from going off piste. In fact, just about every resort has a guide company that relies on people paying them to show them around off piste.

 


Correct!

 

Realize that skiing off piste is a whole different game compared to skiing powder inbounds in the US. And causing an avalanche within a ski-area can have serious consequences (even if nobody gets hurt). Skiing couple of meters of the groomers is considered off piste and more often than not, insurances do not cover this. Consider it skiing outbound.

post #9 of 13

Quote:

Originally Posted by prickly View Post

Having said that, sleeping in your car would probably work just fine, 'cause no one would expect it. I'd move every night, though, 'cause you'd always be in front of someone's house, really. Not too many deserted roads to be found, at least not close in to resorts.


Sleeping in your car would make sense if you would go powderhunting. This becomes more and more popular. As a tourist you probably would't save much due to high car-rental costs.

post #10 of 13



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post

Setting aside the high cost of renting a car and gassing it up, I think you could probably find places to sleep in-car a lot of resorts. But parking is by no means guaranteed. You might be confronted with paid day lots, that are cleared at night, or on-street parking where you could be subjected to a fine. Or even parking garages, which depending on your point of view could be good or bad.

 

My sense is that the best approach for budget skiing the Alps is avoiding the car altogether (unless you live here and own one). Public transportation generally isn't as good in the mountains as elsewhere, but it's still a LOT better than in the States. There are either buses or trains to every European resort of any size, and generally also transport of some kind from outlying villages that have cheaper lodging. That's the route I'd go. It would also be more comfortable and afford you something of an experience too, eg, renting rooms from Austrian villagers, etc.

 

Having said that, sleeping in your car would probably work just fine, 'cause no one would expect it. I'd move every night, though, 'cause you'd always be in front of someone's house, really. Not too many deserted roads to be found, at least not close in to resorts.



+1. Given the cost sleeping in a car probably won't lead to huge savings.

 

For example, when I went to St. Anton last January, the train ticket from Zurich to St. Anton was 121 CHF (gotta love online banking searches) round trip, which is pretty much $120. That got me from the airport to the resort within walking distance of the B&B where I was staying and back to the airport at the end of the week: no taxis, buses, or other means of transport necessary. The B&B itself (within walking distance of the lifts) was about €60/night for a single room if I remember correctly, for which I got a nice room with full bathroom and decent breakfast spread in the mornings.

 

I'm sure that renting a car for 7 days and driving it from Zurich to St. Anton and back would cost well over $120. Throw in the cost of resort parking and breakfast every day, and the cost is getting up there. For me, the savings would not be worth the time, effort, and discomfort. Besides, if I were that worried about saving anywhere I could, I wouldn't be flying across the ocean for my skiing; I'd ski much closer to home.

 

 

post #11 of 13

As others said already, you should really do calculations first. In Austria, Italy, Germany and Switzerland it's perfectly possible to find cheap but still perfectly fine B&B (20-25eur/night with breakfast included), while car hire is a lot more then in USA. So if you can live with one place and you don't need car, it might be cheaper to find nice B&B and use public transportation to get to there, then renting car and sleeping in car.

Otherwise it depends from country to country. In some countries it's not allowed to stay on side of road or on parking places, in others it's allowed. Most ski resorts have signs forbidding "camping" on their parking places, but considering I normally see quite few campers on those parking places, I don't know if anyone enforce this policy.

post #12 of 13

cloudcult,

you can also check out this link : www.couchsurfing.org/

 

Maybe you'll get lucky and find something very close to, or even in, a resort.

post #13 of 13

Firstly you are of course allowed to ski off piste in Europe but your insurance is unlikely to cover you and its recommended you go with a guide. 

 

Second, your main problem would be finding somewhere to park in many European resorts. Either parking is scarce or cars not allowed altogether. Some resorts have what are called 'aires' which is basically free camping. But these can get pretty busy but could likely park a car. 

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