Car adverts invariably show a gleaming vehicle purring unhindered along an empty highway that twists and turns through magnificent scenery. Real life is, of course, a bit different. The reality is that the average speed of a car in London’s rush-hour traffic is seven miles an hour, and the nearest that many motorists get to top gear these days is watching Jeremy Clarkson on Dave. But don’t despair: you can escape the terrible tedium of the Hammersmith gyratory (and Clarkson). In the Alps.
Before you blaze off into the mountains, it’s worth considering a few of the lessons I learned the hard way while researching the Smith Ski collection. Here are some tried-and-tested Alpine driving tips to help you get to your ski chalet in one piece:
1. Just because there’s a road on the map doesn’t mean you can use it in winter. If you ignore the signs telling you the mountain pass is closed, you’ll end up facing an impassable snowdrift – as I did when trying to get from Chalet Eugenia in Klosters to Chalet Solmaï in Verbier.
2. French radio can only really be enjoyed by amateur philosophers, Tanita Tikaram fans and (presumably) the French; pack one of Mr & Mrs Smith’s Something for the Weekend CDs for en-route entertainment if you value your sanity.
3. Perfect Swiss tarmac comes at a price: late spring and early summer is the roadwork season. Detours can be long but fascinating; I’ve was once unexpectedly re-routed via Austria and stumbled across a Tyrolean brass band in full lederhosen regalia.
4. Drive carefully. My hire car had a helpful little alarm that told me the car was skidding out of control on ice near Val d’Isère. Of course, the fact that the steering wheel and the tyres were pointing in opposite directions at the time was another handy hint.
5. If you take a quick detour to Liechtenstein on the way from Zürich Airport to Davos or Klosters, do not compare the country to Lilliput – not even in jest: the locals get rather upset. Seriously, not worth it.
6. Autumn is a fabulous time to drive around the Alps when the pines turn a sparking golden colour. Luxury private chalets available for rental all year round include Chalet Solmaï, Chalets Philippe, Ferme de Moudon and La Grange à Charlotte.