Not all vans are created
Not all vans are created
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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