Many people enjoy camping in the summer and fall seasons; what’s to say you can’t do so in the winter as well? To the uninitiated, the concept of going camping in the wintertime conjures up images of sitting huddled and shivering, preparing a hearty meal in the camping cooker outdoors at freezing -10°C with icicles freezing on the end of one’s nose. Well, with a little preparation, you might be surprised at how comfortable it can be ;-)
From expedition tent to RV, I have learned the advantages of camping out in the cold in Tirol, and at times I think winter camping can even be better than summer camping. Don’t believe me? Before you dismiss the winter camping idea, here are my answers to obvious misgivings.
1. Campgrounds are not beautiful.
Just as with hotels, there are different categories with campsites, suiting all tastes and budgets. Stubai Valley boasts a campground with Jacuzzi, in St. Anton am Arlberg each pitch comes with a separate heated bathroom and Fieberbrunn offers ski-in/ski-out convenience (think four-star hotel standard). Moreover, most winter campgrounds offer a heated drying room for wet clothes, free Wi-Fi and a convenient location on the ski-bus route. Crowded spots are less populated during the winter months, which means that you are much likely to have a spacious pitch all to yourself. And if you prefer solitude, there are campgrounds in more remote locations, off the busy ski resorts. Days are shorter in winter, meaning the stars come out quite a bit earlier. And the winter night sky is magnificent, you’ll see stars like never before! Sip on some schnapps with your fellow campers to warm up your insides and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a magical winter’s night.
2. A motorhome has not everything you need on a Holiday.
An RV has all the creature comforts of a hotel room, including heating, cooking and dining facilities, beds, as well as the convenience of being able to easily stow your ski gear wherever you are. Many motorhomes even have toilets and shower facilities. What’s best, skiing with a motorhome gives you great freedom! If the snow is good elsewhere, you have the flexibility to move quickly in order to get the best conditions.
Before heading out, the most important thing to do is make sure your rig will be up to the rigors of winter camping. Most current RVs are designed, built and insulated to take cold weather in stride. If you rent an RV with an arctic package, you will be pretty well set for winter camping. Even if you don’t have the latest in RV technology, you can still make your trailer or motorhome cosy. Everything from winter tyres, snow chains and pipe insulation to investing in copious amounts of antifreeze are seen as essential preparation for a mountain drive adventure. Anyway, assuming the costs for hotel accommodation, a camping ski holiday really is a viable budget option for those with a limited budget and a limitless desire to ski in Tirol’s best resorts.
3. Camping is not comfortable.
Naturally, winter outings offer different challenges than summer camping. But setting up a tent on the snow is different from driving through your favourite valley by motorhome.
The foremost reason for winter camping is that it offers a freedom that other ski holidays can’t. It’s easy to get from one ski resort to the next and you really get to know the area. As not everyone is interested in braving the winter weather, you don’t need to make a reservation.
Struggling to carry luggage and ski equipment to your hotel room? No need to do so with camping. Want to enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of a pristine winter wonderland after a hard day of play on the slopes? It’s a snap. And while usually your smelling socks are drying in your hotel bathroom, simply put them away in the heated drying room.
Do you really need any more convincing? How about a “private” car park at the gondola base? On various occasions, my motorhome was too big for a single space, so they thought my vehicle would be less obtrusive tucked away in the car park ;-).
4. Getting around by motorhome is not easy.
Last winter I toured Tirol in a huge RV and visited roughly 30 different ski areas in five weeks. I drove this giant vehicle across mountains and valleys, through tunnels, forests and neighbourhoods. On planning my trip, I was scared of steep grades, narrow village roads and snowy mountain roads. In general, driving a motorhome seemed to be a daunting experience. Having passed the ultimate test at Stubai Glacier, where I didn’t have to put on snow chains at freezing -20°C temperature, I knew that my worries were unfounded. A motorhome is easier to steer than you might think. Passing through tiny villages is usually not a problem if you drive carefully and the main roads are mostly snow-free.
5. You will be on your own.
Yes and no. There are fewer people sharing your campsite and the world seems to have slowed down. You can be on your own, if you wish. However, winter camping is also about comradery. You will always be welcome to drop in for some coffee. Give a helping hand at hanging up wet clothes or go for a walk with the neighbour’s dog. There’s nothing cosier than a campfire on a cold winter’s night. Winter camping is the perfect way to get outside – from snowball fights to ski lift rides, I can’t think of a better way to make new friends and spend the winter!
Sure, without pre-planning and adequate gear, winter camping can be miserable. However, once you beat the basic items, winter camping simply can’t be beat. With practice and preparation, you may find the camping in winter is not only worth the small sacrifices, it’s preferable to camping in summer. It’s especially advantageous on a powder day because you can park on the steps of the gondola, and roll out of bed right before the lift starts running and get right on. That’s true luxury, indeed!