Category Archives: Advice

Electric vehicles and solar panels; they aren’t really that green anyway?

Fake News and Myth buster

The first thing to understand is that all transport has an environmental cost. However some forms of transport have a higher cost to the environment than others.

There is a lot of mis-information going around on social media at the moment, trying to claim that electric cars are not a “green” form of transport. Remember what they are up against. Oil companies and the car lobby, both huge and neither play fair. The reason the oil companies hate EV’s is obvious. You might wonder why the car manufactures have an issue though, it’s because in the short-term they can’t make any money from them. They’ll change their tune in time when they have re-tooled for the job. It is starting, but has taken years. The lead has been taken by Tesla, Nissan/Renault and to a smaller extent BMW, that is it though. And between the last 3 they only really have 3 models available to buy!

It is true that a new EV has a higher cost to the environment that a new IC vehicle (so a vehicle with an Internal Combustion engine). This remains the case if the vehicle is not used. But as each vehicle is used the environmental cost of the EV quickly catches up with the IC car. That’s because the IC is continually adding CO2 into the environment. The initial cost to the environment for an EV is mostly in the manufacturing of the battery.

Recycling

The same goes for making the photovoltaic panels (PV’s), that has an environmental impact, however over their life they pay back the environment many times over. They are due to last 30 years, perhaps more. Then what happens to them? Well they are mostly glass, and like glass can be recycled. The same goes for the batteries. They can either be re purposed, so used in a house, or recycled. I’d be very keen to buy some old EV batteries to add to my house, if only I could get them at a good price.

Here is a great infographic that explains about recycling PV’s. It’s from these guys.

https://www.greenmatch.co.uk/blog/2017/10/the-opportunities-of-solar-panel-recycling

Recycling: A Solar Panels Life after Death [infographic]

If everyone had an electric car the grid would not cope / we’d have to build 20 new nuclear power stations.

This is another one that I see a lot. It is mainly based on erroneous calculations. Generally assuming that everyone will use their EV to full capacity every day and then they’ll all plug in at the same time. If that did happen then there would indeed be a problem. However.

  1. It will take a very long time for people to covert to EV’s, currently only 3% of new cars sold are pure EV’s.
  2. On average we don’t drive very far each day, something like 30 km for each car each day. We don’t all plug in at the same time either.
  3. The way we use electricity is changing fast, our biggest issue in the future is going to be storing the power we generate during the day from PV’s and wind. The EV battery could be the answer to this. It is early days but a combination of EV’s being used to store power and discharge it to others at peak times could be a real revolution.

This last argument is being put about by the big energy firms. However, they have a history of trying to kill new technology to protect their position. Salter’s duck is an example.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salter%27s_duck

http://www.checktheevidence.com/Disclosure/Web%20Pages/The%20untimely%20death%20of%20Salter’s%20Duck.htm

Some more resources on the subject.

http://theconversation.com/which-transport-is-the-fairest-of-them-all-24806

https://www.theguardian.com/football/ng-interactive/2017/dec/25/how-green-are-electric-cars

https://phys.org/news/2018-05-electric-vehicles-billions-energy-storage.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-06-27/where-3-million-electric-vehicle-batteries-will-go-when-they-retire

Solar Panels in the snow

3 years ago I wrote about an Electric Car in the snow. I still have an electric car, it looks just like the last one, however it goes further and charges more quickly. I want to use the greenest form of transport I can, so the next logical step is to install photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. If you don’t think EV’s (electric vehicles) and PV’s are as green as some people make out, then check out my thoughts here.

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels do not produce electricity when covered in snow!

I finally got around to working out if I could make photovoltaic (PV) solar panels pay their way. Although I like to try and be as green as I can, I’m only really that interested if being green can save money too. If you compare the payback of anything today to what you’d get from money saved in the bank. Any sort of payback wins!

But first, I can confirm that PV’s don’t produce electricity when covered in snow. This is a non issue for a number of reasons. In the depths of winter the PV’s don’t produce much electricity anyway. If you look at the table below, you will see that in December they only produce 20% of the power of June. Secondly, although I live at 840m altitude in the Alps, I don’t think they will be covered with snow for that may days. Because even when it does snow, once the sun comes out the snow will slide off the same day.

The calculations

First of all I wanted to know how much power my EV needs in a year. I drive 12,000 km/year. That’s 33 km/day, the car has a real world efficiency of 12 kw/100km, so that means I need 4kw of power for an average day’s driving. This real world figure is available on my car’s dashboard, it’s like your IC (internal combustion) car’s fuel consumption figure. So it takes into account the hills, the type of driving you do, and a particular issue for EV’s, the cold temperatures.

Next, you have to work out how much power you can generate where you live. This is quite easy to do. Thanks to the EU there is a web-based calculator that takes everything into account. Your local weather, days of snow cover, even shading from the surrounding mountains.  You will need to know which direction your panels will face, use a compass, (or your phone). This is dictated by where you are going to mount them, in my case that is my garage roof. The angle at which they will be mounted (inclination), use a protractor (or your phone). Then you will need to know how many panels your roof will take. You can use this excellent calculator for that easy-pv.co.uk/, in my case that was 11 panels.

Panels produce between 250-300 W each, the best value panels (not necessarily the prettiest) are currently 270 W, so 270 x 11= 2.97 kw

So the numbers I needed

Power of system 2.97 kw
PV type Crystaline Silicon
Inclination 30°
Orientation 230°, which seems to translate to 50° on this site
Location (use Google maps) 46.231, 6.647

Plug the numbers into the updated site
http://re.jrc.ec.europa.eu/pvg_tools/en/tools.html#PVP

This is the result I got, the new site has more pictures!

So from this you can see that the average daily yield is 7.76 kWh, I mentioned before my car would need 4 kWh, which means that for the space I had available I could almost power two cars (or drive twice as far).

Permission

You need permission off the grid, so in France that is Enedis. I had decided that I wanted to keep the process as simple and the best value as possible. I think the best way to do this is install the system yourself and not to sell any excess power back to the grid. In other words to set the system up so you can use all the power produced. To sell excess power back to the grid you have to use a professional installer, in which case the purchase costs double, which destroys the value of the whole proposition.

This is the site which explains about the permission https://www.enedis.fr/produire-de-lelectricite#etape-prealable, you’ll see that at the top it says you’ll need to ask for permission from the local mairie, that’s not planning permission. But a déclaration préalable de travaux (DP), which is easier than planning permission. You pick the forms up from the mairie. If you have got this far, then you’ll find they are not hard to fill out. Hand them back and wait for a decision from the council. It’ll depend how long it is to the next meeting. For me it was a month. Once you have the permission, you need to go back to the Enerdis site, create an account, upload your forms and a certificat de conformité  for your equipment (available from your supplier). They will create a contract (Convention d’auto-consommation sans injection) for you to sign digitally. I had to wait a week for this.

Fitting the PV’s

Then it was time to get started! I started this process in June, it took until October to get to this stage. It would have made much more sense to start the process in January, however life doesn’t work like that does it?

I had chosen the garage, not because of its proximity to the car, but because it was more accessible to an amateur like myself. It’s closer to the ground for a start!

The first job was to trim back the obvious tree. PV’s really do not like shade.

Then I ordered the equipment. It all fitted onto one pallet.

A friend lent me some scaffolding. I had thought that I could just use a ladder. That was a dumb idea. You will need scaffolding, and for most of the fitting, you will need a second pair of hands!

Fitting the rails and panels took 2 people two afternoons. Here you can see one of the inverters (onduleur in French). With this system there is one inverter for 2 panels. These little devices convert the 20 V (ish) DC power the panels produce into 230 V AC power that the house (and car) use. As an aside, it’s a shame to do this, as the car then converts it back to DC power to charge its batteries. Oh well . All the wiring on the roof is “plug and play”, all waterproofed and no screwdrivers required.

Working on a roof in the mountains, during a sunny autumn is a joy.

The wiring

Not much to do here. In this case we just plugged them into a socket! There is an isolator switch in this picture, though in this case you can isolate the panels by unplugging the socket. We were supplied with a meter too, it’s not strictly necessary, however it is nice to know how much power the panels are producing. I have checked the numbers against the calculations and they match very closely. You can go to town on the monitoring. I could be monitoring electricity produced compared to electricity consumed in real-time from my desk. However it is all extra cost.

One point of note. When the panels are unplugged from the mains, the inverters switch off. So you can’t be electrocuted. If this did not happen, and the power to your house went off, the panels would still be producing electricity and you, your electrician or even a grid worker could be in danger

The finished job, complete with electric car. The car is not plugged into the panels themselves. The car is plugged into the domestic electricity system. The panels are plugged into the same system. The car could be using the power produced, but then so could my fridge, computer, lights or whatever, and as I work from home there is always power being consumed during the day.

Further considerations for your solar installation

I have used polycrystalline panels. The panels have an electric blue colour to them. They don’t look too bad on the metal garage roof, they are not overlooked by anyone either. However if I was to do the same thing on the house roof I would consider a matt black panel. It’s possible that in a few years the panel to use will be “thin film”, especially with a large area to cover.

My house has a 3-phase electrical system. This makes using all the power these panels produce harder to sort out. There are various things that could be done, it’s not particularly complicated. It is worth thinking about in advance though.

Resources

Two fascinating real-time breakdowns of where you electricity is coming from, hour by hour One for France https://www.rte-france.com/fr/eco2mix/eco2mix-mix-energetique and another for the UK http://electricinsights.co.uk/#/dashboard?_k=16xtar

A simple power calculator https://powercalculator.ibc-solar.com/

Some chat on how to deal with 3-phase power https://www.solarchoice.net.au/blog/solar-power-single-phase-vs-3-phase-connections

3-phase again, in French https://www.kitsolaire-autoconsommation.fr/kit-panneau-solaire/kit-solaire-autoconsommation/kit-solaire-triphase-grande-puissance/#combinaison

Immersion controllers, the simplest way to store excess power https://midsummerwholesale.co.uk/buy/solar-immersion-controller

This could be the future however it is expensive at the moment. A great way to store excess summer generation for the winter. https://www.pveurope.eu/News/Power-Heat/Home-Power-Solutions-starts-distribution-of-Picea-micro-fuel-cell-system

This could be a very interesting addition to the system https://myenergi.uk/products/ however it might make more sense if I was selling power back to the grid.

Fully charged has spent 10 minutes reviewing it.

 

Thanks

Thanks to Mark Chewter at http://www.pluginsolar.co.uk/ he supplied all the equipment. His advice on the type of fixings to use on my roof was invaluable too. 54 emails in the end. Thanks to Ady for the scaffolding and first days help with getting the panels up, also for his skills as measuring up to drill the holes. That’s the hard bit, drilling the holes is easy! Steve for the second afternoon of panel fixing and Richard for the finishing touches and all the final electrics.

Golf in the Haute Savoie

The Haute Savoie is known for its lakes and mountains, though rarely for it’s golfing opportunities. Despite this there are a number of excellent golf courses available in the area. We have reviewed them here.

Chamonix : an interesting and very playable golf course set in stunning scenery. A short season, open from the end of June until mid September. Not that posh in comparison to some of the others. Really nice restaurant and friendly staff. 56€ to 91€

Golf in Flaine, courtesy of Flaine OT

Megève : definitely posh but less interesting as a golf course, thanks to its altitude (1320m) the greens are often in poor condition. 40€ to 75€

Annecy : two courses around the lake : Talloires : expensive in high season, a short but hilly mountain-type course kept in excellent condition, especially the greens (which are notoriously small). Giez : longer and more playable “parkland” course, worth a visit, friendly atmosphere and decent pro-shop (a rarity). €59 to €75

Evian Masters : open February to November, a splendid championship course with fantastic practice facilities. Best time to play is just after they’ve had the Ladies Masters in September. €55 to €105

Esery (near Bonneville along the M40 motorway) : really nice and fairly challenging parkland course, super fast and very big greens, superb club house, shop and restaurant. Absolutely worth a try.

Golf in Flaine, courtesy of Flaine OT

Divonne : (just about in France, and technically not in the Haute Savoie either! 30min north of Geneva), open all year, rumour suggests it might be better than Evian. 50€ to 100€

Bossey :(at the foot of the Saleve, near the cablecar), mostly open all year very challenging course, Jean Van de Velde is a regular! Only available to non members during the week.

Aix Les Bains: (in the Savoie, 30 minutes from Annecy), old parkland course with character and in good condition. Playable throughout the year.

The following are not really comparable to the others, but then they don’t pretend to be, they are often half the price. Thanks to their altitude they have short seasons (sometime in June until sometime in September)

Flaine : At an altitude of 1900m, 42€

Les Gets : 1400m of altitude, a personal favourite, very hilly and fairly difficult too, take some snacks and plenty of balls. The TripAdvisor reviews tell all. 33€

Avoriaz : 1700m altitude, the only 9 hole course here. 25€-30€ for 9 holes, 40€-50€ to go round twice!

Supporting the Patrouille des Glaciers

The Patrouille des Glaciers is a gruelling ski mountaineering race between Zermatt and Verbier. Teams of 3 compete to traverse 53km and climb 4000m, it’s a tough race that some claim to be the hardest team event in the world. It’s huge in Switzerland and gets a lot of coverage. The fastest time is just under 6hrs, but this is superhuman, most teams are happy to finish within the 16hrs cut off. The event I supported saw half the teams fail. Due to its popularity the PDG is now held twice in the same week. Nowadays there are always a few British teams that compete, the most famous of which included Pippa Middelton in 2016.  This meant the race was featured in all the major newspapers in the UK. The best article was written by one of the team for the Telegraph, though if you want to see Pippa from every angle the Daily Mail is the place to go.  But for a less showbiz write-up and probably the best pictures then have a look at Ben Tibbetts blog.

 

Supporting the Patrouille des Glaciers

This article is not about the race itself. I’ve written it to help anyone that wants to offer support for a team at the halfway point in Arolla. The organisers do provide water, Coke, tea and chocolate apparently there are some oranges towards the end so support is not strictly necessary. But many people appreciate something a bit more personal and also the possibility to sort out any equipment issues (forgotten suncream?). I had received conflicting reports about how easy it was to access Arolla on the night of the race. The local tourist office had said I could not. However others thought that I could, so I set the satnav and aimed to arrive at 1am. This would mean I could grab a few hours kip in the car and be ready by the piste at 5am.

Driving up from Sion on ever narrowing roads that night I immediately felt the presence of the race. I had managed to get myself sandwiched in a convoy of Swiss Military logistics trucks!  After you pass Evolene the road is very rough, narrow and precipitous, there are even some sections of single-track tunnels. Thankfully these were rendered safer by military personnel stationed at either end. If the weather is good there will be little to worry about. Otherwise don’t forget that Arolla is at 2000m altitude. If any snow is forecast make sure you and your vehicle are properly equipped! On arriving at Arolla much of the town will be occupied by military vehicles and logistics equipment. The Swiss military must treat this event as one of their major logistical exercises. Thousands of them are involved. Near Arolla they had set up a helipad, refuelling facilities and even a field hospital.

Despite this civilian supporters are welcomed. They had provided parking, toilets and had plenty of people on hand to advise. Once the parking is full then the sides of the road are used.  I parked about 15min walk from the checkpoint, and walked the full distance a couple of times but also used the military transport vehicles that were shuttling up and down the road.

 

Arolla checkpoint

The Arolla checkpoint is 28km into the course, the competitors will have climbed 2000m. In theory it is almost halfway, in practice the second half of the race will be harder thanks to the effect of the sun and fatigue. There is mandatory time cut off at 06h30 here and as you can imagine there will be no negotiating with the organisers! The competitors choose when to start the race the night before, so anytime from 22h to 02h in the morning. You should be able to do a basic calculation to estimate what time your team(s) will arrive. There is also the PDG App available on Google and Itunes, this will give you real time data for the location of each team. There is a good phone signal at Arolla too. However the App seems to struggle from time to time so it can’t be relied on.

Finding your team

This will be much easier if it has been discussed beforehand. It’s not easy though, there will be 1,200 competitors that squeeze past in a 3 hr period, more than half of them will have people offering support. Add darkness into the mix and the fact supporters are not allowed onto the course and some thought is required. The support was fairly tightly packed along the fence. Take a look at what I have marked on the enclosed plan. To help my teams find me I had elected to bring along a multicoloured flashing led strip. I was the only one to have done that, everyone else had flashing bike lights and orange warning lights. There were also flags, banners, balloons, tables and even a BBQ. You can imagine what the competitors are faced with!

 

Most of the teams that stop for help spend at least 15min sorting themselves out. Then they are off up an icy piste. Every half hour they end up mixed in with 500 or so setting off in waves on the “A” race start; something which is probably worth avoiding. Once 6h30 is reached everything calms down significantly. I caught a lift back up to my car in one of the military transporters and set off home. Again no grief on the road at all. If you want to drive around to the finish in Verbier, you will have plenty of time. It’s a 2 hr drive and for most teams you will have at least 6 hrs in hand!

 

 

Gourmet suggestions in Les Carroz

The Grand Cerf team has unearthed the best gourmet addresses that Les Carroz has to offer. From the laid-back setting of a pub to a gourmet or stylish restaurant, there is something for every taste!

BISTRO

Time for an aperitif? Come to Le Grizzly, a charming brasserie in the style of a typical English pub located at the heart of Les Carroz. With the added bonus of a cosy lounge area and a south-facing terrace! Check out: a wall of whiskies and a whole range of high-quality draft beers from all over the world!

1, place de l’ambiance , 74300 Les Carroz d’Arâches, Tél. 04 50 90 02 77

 

SOUTH-FACING TERRACE

Once you have taken off your skis, how about a nice drink at the foot of the slops on the south-facing terrace of the Milk Hotel.  At midday, you can enjoy an organic lunch based on original and generous bistro-style cuisine..

459 Route des Servages, 74300 Les Carroz-d’Araches

 

RESTAURANT

L’Igloo is an authentic Savoyard cabin located at an altitude of 1,598 m, at the arrival point of the Bergin (Morillon) chair lift. Open every day with continuous service, you can enjoy specialities from the Savoy region, daily suggestions and home-made desserts in the comfort of a flower-decked and sun-kissed terrace in the midst of the alpine pasture. Fondue, potato fritters, péla, etc. Cédric slow-cooks a range of traditional and top-notch specialities!

433, Route de Flaine 74300 Les Carroz d’Arâches Tél. 04 50 90 14 31 & 06 87 81 17 05

 

GASTRONOMIC

Renowned gastronomic restaurant, Les Servages d’Armelle welcomes its guests to a very cosy space which affords a unique view of the mountains, whether you are seated inside, on the south-facing terrace or on the veranda which is a continuation of the terrace.

The talented and passionate chef, Pascal Flécheau, expertly produces dishes of modern cuisine which are meticulous, generous, inventive and refined all at the same time.

Special mention goes to the St Pierre fillets and grilled squid, not to mention…traditional fondue served with boletus mushrooms, an original variation that beautifully combines three jewels of Savoyard gastronomy: cheese, wine and mushrooms.

841, Route des Servages 74300 Arâches-la-Frasse Tél. 04 50 90 01 62

 

SLOW AND STEADY…

At Café de Balme, there is no menu but a slate which changes on a daily basis according to season and availability! Philosophy: promote fresh products produced locally. Here, everything is home-made and the dishes simmer for hours on end on the ancient range cookers Aga and La Cornue…

The secret to the flavours of days gone by and authentic family cuisine is time!

309, route des grottes de Balme 74300 Magland Tél. 04 50 91 26 31

 

THE ESSENTIAL RECIPE: TARTIFLETTE

This dish, made with potatoes, lardons and onions and completely covered in reblochon cheese, is the star winter attraction par excellence. Where is it served in Les Carroz? Authentic tartiflette is served at Alpage de l’Airon, a 15-minute walk from the Airon bend or from the top of the cable car.

Ingredients for 4 people:
1.2 kg of firm potatoes
200 g of lardons
1 onion
1 reblochon farm cheese
2 tablespoons of crème fraîche
1 bottle of Apremont

# Tartiflette has not been around that long. See Wikipedia for more information!

 

 

The winter of 2017-18

In theory we have passed into Spring now. It doesn’t feel like it, and we have more snow down to the lower valleys forecast for the weekend. I have heard people complaining about the amount of sunny days we have had. It seems they are right. This has been the second “darkest” winter since WWII.

Meteonews has written up a summary of the numbers for this winter. The bottom line is that it has been extreme, we’ve had everything (except sun) high temperatures, low temperatures, precipitation.  Many weather records have been broken.

Temperature

Overall the temperature has been pretty much average compared to the records. However that masks the fact that January was one of the warmest on record, followed by a cold February. It just shows that an “average” figure can hide the reality quite effectively.

Precipitation

December and January had exceptional amounts of  rain (and snow), only beaten 7 times in the last 70 years. I’ve tried to find historical comparisons but we might have to wait until they are published. Meteonews mentions record amounts of snow with up to 7m that has fallen in some spots.

Avalanches

The bad weather has restricted the number of days suitable for venturing far from the pistes, this has meant that the accidents have come all at the same time on the few sunny days. So far there have been 25 people who have died in avalanches in France, with 3 missing (presumed dead), this is about average compared to previous years. An example of how they have all come at once happened over the weekend of the 3/4 of March.  See this article on Piste Hors. Full details of all the incidents are on the Anena website.

Why borrow in France?

 Why borrow in France?

By Nathalie Hilton @ International Private Finance,
London based French mortgage broker

 

Mitigate the volatile exchange rate and reduce sterling cost

The Sterling cost of purchasing a property in France is only fixed when you actually transfer your GBPs into Euros.

Part financing your purchase with Euros will allow you to delay this transfer until the exchange rate has recovered in your favour.

This has proven a popular strategy with cash rich buyers since Brexit, the subsequent fall of the Sterling and the very volatile evolution of the exchange rate.

You basically match the currency exposure of the asset you are buying (the French property) and the funds you are using to finance the purchase (Euros borrowed from the bank rather than Sterling savings you have).

Once the exchange rate moves in your favour, you are in a position to repay all or part of the French mortgage thereby not only reducing the debt against the property, but also the sterling cost of purchasing your second home in France.

A large majority of mortgages in France feature no or very low early redemption penalties, so it is important you select the most adequate product from the outset through an experienced broker.

Secure finance on the French property rather than your main residence

A large majority of second home buyers feel more comfortable to raise finance on the new French property as opposed to taking new or additional liability on their main residence at home.

When you borrow in France, the lenders will always take a first rank charge of the French property; this will be registered against the asset by the notaire who looks after the conveyancing process.

Borrowing in France means access to high Loan to Values and longer fixed terms

French mortgage rates are very close to historic lows, and long term fixed rate mortgages are very popular in the domestic French market.

At the time of writing, you can typically borrow for 20 years at rates as little as 1.40% (with a 20% side investment) or 2.15% (with no side investment), and you have the reassurance that your monthly repayments will never increase.

Loan to values (LTVs) for non-resident buyers are also very high in France and depending on your circumstances, you can typically borrow up to 85-90% of the purchase price net of agents or notaires’ fees. This is however only available on a repayment basis.

Some of the banks will also offer interest only options or “in-fine” as it is called in France, though they have much stricter criteria and it is more difficult to qualify for this type of loans. The best LTVs available on interest only tend to be around 70-75% of the net purchase price.

Create a debt on the French property, as mortgage interest can currently be offset against some of the French taxes

In a number of cases, it is possible to offset the interest of your French mortgage against tax on the rental income that you may generate with the French property.
For purchases of €1,300,000 and over, the French Wealth tax becomes applicable on the net value of the property, as per the rates below.

[table id=4 /]

This is one of the reasons why many investors choose to take out a mortgage on those more expensive properties.

We always recommend that you take independent advice from an accountant about tax implications for any property purchase in France.

To discuss the above in further details, contact Enquiries@internationalprivatefinance.com

 

French Capital Gains Tax

Just like in the UK, if you sell property in France for more than you paid for it there is tax to pay. If the property is your main home then there is a 100% exemption (so you’ll have no French Capital Gains Tax to pay). If the property is a second home then things get more complicated.

I’ve been collecting some articles on the subject from the web. A good place to start would be the French Notaires website.

https://www.notaires.fr/en/capital-gains-tax-property-0

More from the French government here. Dealing with the specific case of what happens when there is a delay in selling what was a principal residence.

http://droit-finances.commentcamarche.net/faq/2342-delai-de-revente-de-la-residence-principale

also

https://www.frenchentree.com/french-property/french-tax/capital-gains-on-a-property-sale/

and some Brexit related comment here

https://www.frenchentree.com/brexit/what-happens-to-capital-gains-tax-after-brexit/

Alpine weather forecast

We often get asked what the weather is like in the Alps. And where we get our forecast from. There are loads of resources available. I rarely use just one, I get used to putting them together to get an overview of the situation.

Our favourite forecast is from an amateur forecaster in Chamonix, it’s good for most of the Haute Savoie. We find it works fine in St Gervais, Samoens and Morzine too.

http://chamonix-meteo.com/bul/metPreMatFr.php taken from the http://chamonix-meteo.com/ website.

We often use Snow-Forecast for long term trends, it’s free up until 6 days however don’t get too hung up on the actual numbers. It should be renamed rain-forecast in the summer.

http://www.snow-forecast.com/

And then MeteoBlue, this goes into more depth and forecasts further into the future.

https://www.meteoblue.com/en/weather/forecast/meteogramfive/morzine_france_2991630

If you want to get back to basics then there is always the pressure charts. The best are probably from the Met Office

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/surface-pressure/

For a more micro idea of the current rain/snow there is a real time radar, this is great for picking dry periods between showers.

http://www.landi.ch/fra/0804_niederschlagsradar.asp

Webcams in the Haute Savoie.

When things are a bit grey in the valleys, we use the webcams to see what is happening on the mountain!

The Lindarets Webcam http://m.webcam-hd.com/vallee-d-aulps/les-lindarets

The plateau at La Grande Terche http://m.webcam-hd.com/vallee-d-aulps/plateau-st-jean-d-aulps/

The summit (Sommet des Tetes) at La Grande Terche http://m.webcam-hd.com/vallee-d-aulps/roc-d-enfer

Various webcams at Avoriaz http://www.avoriaz.com/en/discovering/interactive-tour/webcams

All the webcams in Chamonix http://www.chamonix.com/webcam,12,en.html

And these ones at the end of a high valley on the Italian side of Mt Blanc. http://www.comune.valsavarenche.ao.it/it/web-cam

When there is a thunderstorm it can be fun seeing where the lightning is striking. This site shows the real-time strikes and is very accurate.

https://www.lightningmaps.org/

 

 

 

Rainy day activities in the Alps

The weather in the French Alps is generally good. When compared to many other mountain ranges in the world you can expect less rain in the French Alps! It can be miserable though and when a rainy period hits your week’s holiday thinking of things to do can be a challenge. I’ve lived in the Portes du Soleil for 18 years, run a holiday business for 10 of them and brought up 3 children for 15 of them. So far this week the Haute Savoie has received a months worth of rain. And now there is snow falling at 2000m!

Here are my ideas for wet weather activities.

Canyoning

You are going to get soaked anyway, and whatever the weather you will need to wear a wet suit, if for no other reason than it offers a bit of protection from the knocks that you will inevitably get! Wearing a wet suit on a hot day can be a bit much so take advantage of the weather and go canyoning in the rain! It’s quite an expensive option (55€ for an adult) but well worth it.

Rafting

Ditto the comments on Canyoning. A less expensive option at 38€ for an adult. Once you have tried rafting your can always go back for Hydrospeed.

Ice-Skating

Chamonix, Morzine and Megève all have Olympic sized covered ice-rinks (Patinoire in French), the children will love it, for you it might bring back some bad memories!

Swimming pool

There are plenty of open air pools across the Alps. On a rainy day they are still open but will be deserted. If you want to swim some lengths a rainy day is the perfect time to do this. If this sounds a bit too hardy then almost all of the alpine resorts now have covered swimming pools too.

Cinema

Most of the main alpine towns have cinemas. Cinéma Vox in Chamonix, Cinéma Rex in Morzine, Cinéma Le Criou in Samoens, Rochebrune in Megève, Ciné Mont-Blanc in Sallanches, Le Danay in La Clusaz and Le Choucas in Les Carroz, to name most but not all of them. Allocine is the website that tell you what is on and when. I know that the cinema in Morzine puts on an extra matinée show when it’s raining.

The Mechanical Music Museum in Les Gets

It’s a bit of a standing joke in our family, and admittedly we have only been once. Despite this it should not be missed! The Musée de la Musique Mécanique is open in the afternoon almost all the year. It has 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor 2/16 for things to do in Les Gets (the first is skiing).

Gorges du Pont du Diable, Vallée d’Aulps

One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Haute Savoie. A guided walk in a deep, narrow limestone gorge. Long opening hours, and a long season. The Gorges du Pont du Diable doesn’t cost the earth either (22€ for a family of 4), it is accessible from Morzine, Les Gets and St Jean d’Aulps via the Balad’aulps bus. It’s dark and damp in the gorge so a bit of rain makes no difference. There is a café and a geology visit by the parking too.

The following activities will require a car.

Olympic Museum in Lausanne

You can either drive around Lac Léman or take a ferry (good fun but not cheap), to visit this suburb museum, don’t take my word for it, it is #1/87 things to do in Lausanne on Trip Advisor. It’s also quite good value which is hard to find in Switzerland at the moment. Just 40CHF for a family ticket. More information is on this link.

Chillon Castle

Again, this gets a top rating on Trip Advisor. At the eastern end of Lac Léman, the Château de Chillon is a really hands on exploration of a fairy tail castle. Perfectly preserved thanks to the fact it has never been attacked! They do a great value family ticket for 29 CHF.

 

Salt Mines at Bex

This is only open in the height of the summer, it’s an underground visit so the weather conditions are not important! Not too expensive either. There is more information on their website. Sel des Alpes.

Thermal Spas

The French Alps are full of thermal springs that have been turned into thermal spas and swimming areas. They all have inside and outside pools but considering these pools are often at the temperature of your bath it does not matter what the weather is like.  I’ve been to Les Bains de Val-d’Illiez  and Lavey les Bains‘ as they have big pool complexes with them. I’ve never been to the spars in Evian-les-Bains, Thonon Les Bains or St Gervais-les-Bains, but the clue is in their names.

Go for a walk or bike ride

It’s always hard heading out into the rain but you know you’ll enjoy it afterwards. Stay low though, heading up the lifts or onto the mountain tops doesn’t make much sense. Keep it short too.  Use some tactics. It rarely rains all day. Use the alpine weather forecast and rain radar to pick the best time of day to go outside. When I worked as a walking and biking guide we had a plan on a rainy day. We would only ever manage half a day in the rain. So if it is raining in the morning, chill out until later in the day, then go for a ride in the rain, or if you are lucky it will have stopped which will be a bonus! There is nothing worse than going out in the morning, giving up at lunch and then watching the sun come out in the afternoon! If you want an objective then search out a waterfall to look at, they look their best in the rain, there are plenty and they are generally marked on the maps.

Board games

You never have an afternoon spare to play board games with your family at home, so revel in the opportunity whilst sheltering in your cabin on holiday. Reach for the Monopoly or Scrabble and make the most of the “down time” forced upon you. Nice and cheap too!