Have you ever tried doing this? Hiring a car and driving to your favourite ski resort? From someone who’s done it, let me tell you it’s not as easy as it sounds, especially if you are short sighted and have no sense of direction.

Abundant cheap flights from the UK to Geneva have made it easier than ever to do your own thing, hire a car and head for the slopes.

Determined types shun the maps offered by their car-hire company and follow signs, ending up circumnavigating the picturesque but confusing centre of Geneva, usually several times, sharing traffic jams with Swiss commuters.

So the first piece of advice is to hire a car on the Swiss side of the airport rather than the French side – for a very simple reason that the Swiss car parks are closer to the terminal building, but also for the motorway vignette or ticket, of which more below.

On leaving the airport follow TOUTES DIRECTIONS, then the green FRANCE signs. These will take you along a long, straight road, at the end of which the FRANCE signs take you left. Stay in the right-hand lane, because immediately after the left turn you follow FRANCE to the right, down the motorway slip road.

This autoroute, with a strictly enforced 100kph speed limit, takes you to the border. In Switzerland, in theory, you need an annual vignette, or licence, to use their motorways, but we have only ever heard of one car being stopped on the way out of Switzerland and made to pay the £20 or so. (If you don’t want to run that slight risk, don’t take the slip road but carry straight on, looking out for ST. JULIEN or ANNECY – in blue, because in Switzerland green is for the autoroute.). However, Swiss hire cars should have the vignette already – you should definitely check with your hire company before setting out.

You cross the border after a few miles of motorway. A quarter of a mile later, filter right, following the green ANNECY sign, not the blue, unless there is heavy snow. In France, green is for ordinary roads and blue is for autoroutes, and the motorway route to Annecy is twice as long as the direct route.

Following ANNECY, you will bear right again and go round a roundabout. In a few miles, you have a choice again between more motorway and the normal main road. Again, the motorway is slower except in bad weather. (If driving conditions are really diabolical, or there is heavy traffic, it is probably faster and safer to take this autoroute, the A41, past Annecy to Chambéry, then take the A43 to Albertville, in spite of the extra 30 miles this adds. Luckily you do not need a vignette for French motorways.)

However, normally, the quickest route is through the centre of Annecy, following ALBERTVILLE. Unfortunately, the Annecy Town Council would rather send you, literally, round the houses, so the signs to follow are “LAC” at first, and then “CENTRE VILLE” and then “ALBERTVILLE”. After that, it’s plain sailing.

Once through Albertville, go left towards MOUTIERS. This road takes you straight on to Bourg St. Maurice and then Val d’Isre, about an hour and a half from Albertville. The whole journey should take from three to three and a half hours.

For the return journey, leave the expressway at Albertville, following ANNECY. Go through the centre of Annecy, following GENEVE, except in bad weather, when it’s easier to follow the TOUTES DIRECTIONS or autoroute signs just before Annecy.

Unless you have or don’t mind buying the Swiss autoroute vignette, you must avoid joining the motorway back to the airport at the border, so half an hour after Annecy, when you see signs to the motorway and Geneva to your right, stay on the main road. You go towards St. Julien, and then pick up GENEVE. There’s an easy-to-miss left turn at the second traffic light. At this frontier post, at Perly, go through the red channel: the green one is for locals.

However, you can save lots of time now by taking the left turn onto the motorway about a mile into Switzerland. It is at a traffic light, and marked LAUSANNE. Once again, you theoretically need the vignette, and should have one with your Swiss hire car but may not be spotted if you’re in your own car without one. The airport exit is clearly marked, as is the exit for the French sector if that is where you have to return your car.

We wish you a bon voyage, and happy skiing.

About the Author

Emma Forrester works for YSE, Val d’Isre ski chalet specialists.