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post-title CHOOSING A MOTORHOME FOR SKIING: YOUR OPTIONS

CHOOSING A MOTORHOME FOR SKIING: YOUR OPTIONS

CHOOSING A MOTORHOME FOR SKIING: YOUR OPTIONS

CHOOSING A MOTORHOME FOR SKIING: YOUR OPTIONS

As time has gone on, people have started to realise (and especially those who met us on the road) that our motorhome ski adventure wasn’t all buttercups and daisies!

We decided not to become angry-ragey bloggers about our challenges because we thought it might put people off which totally went against our original intentions. Here, we’re going to look at choosing a motorhome for skiing and how to avoid some of our challenges.

OUR CAVEAT:

We are not motorhome dealers, manufacturers, or winter motorhoming experts. We are two people, who went on a season long tour, extremely naïve to the challenges we might face and came out if it a whole lot wiser. Please take anything we say with a fist full of salt!

So here we go. A brain dump.

With the benefit of a 6 month hiatus from motorhoming, perhaps now is the time to share some of our thoughts on what kind of machine you need to go motorhome skiing. We’re also hoping that this might spark some debate and discussion amongst the community and enable people to make decisions based on their own circumstances.

Our basic feeling is this – you should go with what you prefer; is available to you; or you can afford. Many a night have we gazed enviously at a seemingly crappy old van, rammed with people, doggos and kit – knowing that despite their lack of power shower and having to wee in a porta-potti whilst their van-mates “lalala’d” with their eyes shut, their experience was probably far simpler and less stressful than ours.

Where our thoughts have come from:

We toured in a brand new, well equipped, but not ‘winterized’ coachbuilt motorhome. 3.5 tonnes, 7.3m nose to tail and retailing at about £50k with the extras. It had a ‘winter pack’ which included silver bubbles on the externally slung water tanks (not standard), heat probes in the aforementioned tanks and fridge vents covers.

This was grossly inadequate for the conditions we encountered and, in our opinion, insufficient for any sub-zero conditions full stop.

However. In the spirit of Toby Keith’s ‘Call a Marine’ (look that up on Spotify – you will not regret it!), we were left with the US military mantra, improvise, adapt and overcome. And that’s what we did. In between bouts of hysterical meltdowns, raging tantrums and sulks that make the most motivated toddler look lame.

choosing a motorhome for skiing

We also had some fascinating discussions as time went on – not only with seasoned pros but also motorhome engineers; automotive electricians; a variety of motorhome and camper van manufacturers; plumbing and heating experts; and most interestingly, people who actually live in the mountains all year.

The reason you don’t need a £50k+ coachbuilt motorhome is because it’s not the motorhome itself that dictates the success of your motorhome ski adventure – it’s the craftsmanship and understanding that goes into it – from the very basic physics of the phase changing nature of H2O to the physical requirement of what you need to store.

Not all motorhomes are created equal

As many of you will have done (or will be doing in the future), we have spent a ridiculous proportion of our life browsing motorhomes. Initially, this was in dealerships, then at various shows and exhibitions and finally, throughout the winter which is where our learning really began!

7 options when choosing a motorhome for skiing

1) Brand-spanking new motorhomes

Yummy land yachts. If you pick the right one – from the utterly overwhelming number on the market – you’ll be a pig in poo. They are sooooo beautiful. The posh ones have mind blowing options and features, and their plug and play nature make them a perfect option for many willing and able to spend the dosh!

Winterized Tip: We had a really interesting piece of advice – you need to spend at least £60k on a truly off-the-shelf winterized motorhome. Why? Because the stuff you need to engineer-in to withstand the elements simply costs a load more than your average Lake District assured motorhome. Makes sense. That piece of advice was dispensed by a man who’s job it is to meet pricing targets in the motorhome manufacturing process. Interesting isn’t it?

No doubt, many will argue that their under £60k motorhome is bullet proof in -15oC – its grade three thermal rating says so – hmmm. A blog for another day! Not seen one that has been faultless without modification. If you have, please comment below!

2) Nearly new motorhomes

Winterized Tip: If this is what you’re looking for – the most modern of luxuries without the price tag, get one that’s at least 3 years old.

Why? Because any niggles and recalls are likely to have been ironed out by then and it’s still going so that’s always a good sign! A learned veteran explained that once someone has had the trauma of negotiating warrantee work to their new motorhome and responded to recalls and fixed problems, they often fall out of love with it altogether so this is where the gems and bargains are found.

And finally – try and buy from a dealer who understands your needs – especially if you’re a newbie.  If you find one (or you are one), please let us know in the comments below because we’re still on the hunt a year and a half since we first started looking.

3) 20 year old ladies

Much the same as older cars, there’s far less to go wrong on these machines. No i-pad integrated remote control heating, the knobs and handles generally stay on and they used actual wood in the olden days.

With the demand so high for motorhomes 3.5 tonnes or under, something had to give and we think based on our experience it was 2mm off every screw in the entire machine.

We all demand more from our motorhomes – separate shower and toilet, fixed beds, heated garages…. short and light. My background is motor racing and once this was highlighted to me I instantly knew what that meant for our motorhome. Everything about it was going to be more bendy than it’s vintage predecessors.

4) Van conversions

Mega. What a way to tour! Easy to manoeuvre and park, more economical to run, often cheaper to buy…

We saw a lot more of these than we expected and not your grotty old #vanlife shitters. Fancy fandango, off road adventure beasties. They’re growing in popularity (you’ll see all the vloggers reviewing them) and the manufacturers are expanding their ranges. Good. Something for those without the time or skills (or indeed inclination) to watch 4 million YouTube videos on ‘how to install multi-colour changing LED strips’ before realising it’s yet another thing to drain your battery. Every amp-hour counts people!

Photo | The Denver Post

5) A proper van conversion

If we’re completely honest, we’re not sure that kitting a van out from scratch for a motorhome skiing adventure is something that should be undertaken by people who aren’t pretty handy already. Far be it from us to put anyone off but it’s just not the same as making a weekend camper to get you through Glastonbury and Jamie’s Sausage Festival.

It’s not rocket science but unless you have experience as a trade’s person or you’re particularly into van conversions already, you might be better off getting some help – whether that’s from someone experienced or from a conversion company. There are plenty of people out there and they might save you a fortune on screw-ups!

However, if you are up for the challenge, give yourself plenty of time to cock it up! Who knows, maybe we should get a group of enthusiasts together and do a ‘build’ that we can share for those with the ambition to build their own!

In the meantime, does anyone know of any conversion companies who have specialist experience in winterized conversions? Please tell us in the comments below so we can check them out and give them a plug (if they’re any good!)

6) Upgrade a motorhome or van

The jury’s out on whether upgrading an old van or motorhome to deep winter spec is economical – unless you know your vehicle intimately, you might find that you uncover a lot of nasties that you’d really rather have been ignorant to.

The big but… this is a great way of getting to know your motor and how it all works without the stress of cutting holes in the sides and roof and attempting to install gas appliances.

There are a few things you can do to a totally unsuitable vehicle to turn it into a plausible snowmad’s lair and over winter, we’ll do a series of articles on some of the adaptations we did last year to overcome the most debilitating of challenges.

And finally…

7) Rental

If you’re not sure if motorhoming or snowmading is for you (for whatever reason) why not dip your toe in with a rental?

We’ll cover this in a different blog because there are a few different options!

To the NEC

This year, we’re going to the NEC with 150+ nights motorhoming experience (most at sub-zero temperatures), the benefit of talking to 6 of the biggest dealers in the country and the valued support and knowledge imparted by all the people who helped us on our winterized motorhome adventure.

Our aim is to narrow down the current new options to a top 10 across price and spec so that people who perhaps don’t have the time or experience to dedicate to spending days (and weeks), a leg up as to what to look for.

Most importantly, whatever you invest in, be it be the Rolls Royce of the motorhome world, a banged up old Transit you found in a yard, or anything in between – it’s a huge financial and time commitment and we’re going to do our best to make sure you’re armed with as much info as possible.

In conclusion

Hopefully you can see that even without a boot full of cash, there are loads of options open to you if you fancy become part of the snowmad community.

There are as many ways to undertake a motorhome ski adventure as there are ways to take a city break – something to meet a broad spectrum of budgets and interests.

If you want to get our blogs dumped in your inbox (about once every 2 weeks or so), you can sign up in the box on the right.

#WINTERISCOMING

Comments (11)

  1. Hi guys. Loving the blog. We’ve just started skiiing as a family and have a Sunlight A68 coachbuilt motorhome 2015 vintage. Lovely bus which we bought from my German cousin. He lives in Munich and has done a bit of motorhoming in the cold. I don’t believe it is winterised though. But we have winter tyres and snow chains as these are a legal requirement in Germany (certainly in Munich). The van is a Fiat Ducato base and has now done 42k miles as we have done 12k in one year and Christian did a heap too, but for the first year it was a rental. I don’t mind the mileage as the van has had lots of use so hopefully (fingers crossed) we shouldn’t run into to much hassle. The drinking water (100 litres) is based inside the van under one of the dinette seats, so I’m hoping with a big of insulation under and around it, being that it is inside the van, we shouldn’t have trouble with freezing. Regards grey water, I hear you in disconnecting the waste off the tank and using a bucket. Advice on best way to winterise the fridge vents would be good, is this just a fancy cover? And our boiler is a Thule which is situated in a cupboard. I’m assuming raising it on a plinth of insulation would help to keep it warmer, but I would intend to keep it running. It has the frost stat that drains it, but if you’re running it, does this apply? Advice again on that would be much appreciated. From what I see the main issues we have are grey water and fridge. I hope I’m not over simplifying things we have a silver screen. Is it possible to insulate the cassette area? I thought putting some insulation on the back of the door would help and perhaps stuffing some bubble wrap or isowool (not the itchy stuff) around the cassette generally would help and of course limiting use. Thanks guys.

  2. Am loving your blog/ site. You have made more sense than any of the people I spoke to in the Manchester motorhome and caravan show on Saturday. We have an Elddis and the tank is underslung and I am panicking! I’ve been recommended bubble wrap, tank blankets , £300 a piece stuff for water and waste tanks (£600 + then ). That the tanks won’t freeze anyway because of friction and water freezes from the top not the bottom and it appears I have little heaters anyway so it will all be fine !!!! I really don’t know who to believe or what to do for the best. I’m thinking water in a container inside is the way to go !! We are going to the alps on a campsite….we do have electric to ski. We have all the other stuff , winter tyres, chains ( super duper ones ) but I am still a little apprehensive. I am a seasoned motorhomer but my other half is a tecniphobic and can do nothing, so it rests with me. Any advice would be gratefully received . But keep up these brilliant blogs. They are brilliant. Thankyou

    1. Hi Lizi,

      Thanks so much for messaging – totally understand your anxiety and you’re definitely not alone!

      So – based on our specific experience with and Elddis, the reality is, whilst it’s not a certainty that your tanks will freeze, it is a distinct possibility if you’re experiencing temperatures below 0 degrees… which you certainly hope to on a ski trip!

      Even with the bubble wrap and internal tank heaters (we presuming you’re talking about the factory-fit winter kit?), we had frozen tanks (both) on many occasions so for the purposes of a stress free trip, our advice (for what it’s worth) is to just assume they’re going to freeze and prepare as if you’re operating without them. Just to note – what is more likely is that your pipes will freeze. We can’t speak for all Elddis models but as far as we know, no pipework, internal or external is insulated on the current range of Elddis vehicles.

      So what can you do? This is James’s department and we rigged a pretty elaborate by-pass for most of the pipes and the tanks. However, you have a simple option. Drain the tanks completely before you go (making sure not to leave the pump on once they’re empty), use whatever space you have to take some water containers (at least 20l total but keep each to 10l for ease of carrying). If you’re on a campsite, you don’t really need water other than for the odd swilling of a wine glass, drinking, cooking, brushing your teeth and rinsing the loo. Forget about it, use the facilities and have a really fun holiday!

      Regarding externally pipes (bathroom basin and shower waste pipes) – these are most likely to freeze due to the way they’re installed. Try not to use them – if you weren’t on a campsite, we’d say disconnect them from the grey water tank and run them into a bucket but as it is, just use the onsite showers facilities.

      The kitchen sink isn’t so easy to live without so what we recommend is when you arrive, disconnect it. Easier than it sounds. Just follow the waste pipe from your sink to where it goes through the floor of your motorhome (for us this was under the oven) – go outside and find it – follow this to where it joins the great water tank. You’ll find a silver jubilee clip – just undo it with a screwdriver or small spanner. Pull the hose off and stick it in a bucket (or something). You will now find your Elddis sink runs better that you’ve ever known it to! Don’t forget to reconnect it before you leave. Also remember to leave your frost-stat on the hot water tank.

      However…if you do want to fully utilise your vehicle and all it’s facilities, let us know and we can send you a step by step guide to what we did… just be aware, doing this, whilst a temporary alteration, might invalidate any warrantee you have. There is a bigger long term fix but as our vehicle belonged to Elddis themselves, we didn’t do any un-doable alterations.

      MOST IMPORTANTLY – DO NOT WORRY. The very worst case scenario is that everything freezes entirely and then what? You drink bottled water (probably should anyway in winter mountain resorts), you shower at the site (or don’t shower at all!), you wash your dishes in the onsite facilities and you use a bottle to swill the toilet. No problem.

      You know where we are – message winterized.eu@gmail.com if you want to talk.

      Hannah and James

  3. Hi, We have a Hymer PL 704 2017 coachbuildt and went skiing for the first time last winter in it. It is ‘fully winterised’ and I am interested to hear in your blog the advice as you probably aware this is over your 60K mark. The positives, The Puel construction makes it very insulated inside. The room is top layered outside with weatherproof rubber (GRP) that protects it from things like hail. The water tanks are all inside and in a double floor with underfloor heating so when it went down to minuses we had no problem with water dump. It has the inet heating where you can turn it on from the mountain still but we kept it running at 5-7degrees through the night and it stayed constant and didn’t use too much power so that was good. We have internal thermal blinds so didn’t use the external blind we had bought and had no problem inside temperature wise. The garage is large and also heated so the kit etc goes in there. With the heating on and damp kit you do get some condensation in there so this years we are going to put a small dehumidifier in the garage. We had no problem with the fridge as we put winter covers on it. We didn’t buy the artic pack with it but overall haven’t needed it and haven’t had to adapt anything yet. If you are at the NEC (we will be), have a look and maybe this one will be on your list.

    1. Hi Gill – this one is definitely on the list (I’m not sure if there’s a new one this year but have requested info from Hymer) and really interesting to hear that you barely needed any of the ‘winter’ extras! That’s a lot of spec and sounds like money exceedingly well spent!

  4. Hi,
    I’m selling a van that I have used in the Alps for the last six winters. Our
    lowest recorded outside temperature was -35!
    If anyone wants the details I’m happy for you to contact me.
    As far as conversion comparable concerned, I’m using PWR leisure in Barrow-in-Furness to make my new ‘winter specific’ van – a Boxer conversion. Paul and Matthew there will be able to help you out.
    Great site by the way, sounds like the learning curve was super steep.
    My top tips for winter vans are.
    1. Have a garage that doubles as a drying room
    2. LPG underslung is the ONLY way to go
    3. NEVER fill your water tank in winter – use a 25ltr container
    4. Wet wipes and kitchen role solve all problems!

  5. You guys are great still going strong after the winter your site is packed with good advice and has had effect on my thinking about the Alps in winter ❄️ I’m not saying I won’t try but may need to reconsider some things , we still want to go, after watching yourself more preparation needed

    Thanks Gavin and Zehra

    1. Thanks guys – going better prepared would definitely have made our experience more enjoyable at times so That’s awesome news – just don’t leave it too long!
      Hannah & James

  6. Nice little article that. Your comment on cheapie build parts being “bendy” brought to mind a mechanic friends comment meaning the same thing but he calls it “chocolatey”.
    We have to take 6 months out from foreign travel this year due to mother in-law having had a stroke.
    We hope to go to the NEC though, which days will you be there?

    1. Hey Roger – it’s such a false economy – I really don’t get it but I guess that’s what purchasing departments are for 🙁

      I’ll probably be there most/all days (James maybe just one) – we have a lot to get through! Cuppa?!

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