In summer you'll probably find it easier to find a space to park your car in Chamonix. In winter, a covered or underground parking spot is the ideal place to leave your vehicle as it will save you all the hassle of digging it out after a snowfall, scraping your windows and trying to start a frozen car. However, parking in ski resorts can be tight and so you’ll more than likely end up leaving your car outside.
Things to remember:
Traffic wardens or “Police Municipal” are regularly seen patrolling the streets on the look out for illegally parked vehicles. Parking in ski resorts can be very problematic especially during high season, so it is always worth reserving a parking space in advance wherever possible to ensure you have a suitable spot to leave your car. Foreign plates do not give you diplomatic immunity from parking fines, so if you do leave your car in an inappropriate spot then you should expect to be ticketed or even towed away and impounded.
Parking fines vary from €11 to €135, with €45 being the norm. If you receive a fine through the post you have three options: throw it away (although the French authorities are cracking down on non-payment of penalties by foreign drivers), pay it, or contest it. If you decide to pay it then the sooner the better as the fine is lowered if paid within 15 days. You can do so either by buying a “timbre amende” from a tabac or tax office, attach it to the ticket and send it off; or by credit card on this website. Should you choose to contest it, then you need to complete the form attached to the fine and send it off to the Police Municipal.
Always pay attention to signs placed around parking areas in resort that may indicate a market or snow clearing taking place the following day. When there is snow to clear, ploughs show very little respect for things in their way and on more than one occasion have been known to scrape up the sides of errant vehicles causing significant damage. If you don’t move your car it will be towed and left elsewhere in resort, generally on the outskirts of town.
A few tips for parking your vehicle:
- Park facing downhill and turn your wheels towards the kerb to act as a brake.
- Leave your car in gear with the handbrake off, as it can freeze and you can snap the cabling.
- Lift the windscreen wipers away from the window so that they don’t stick to the glass and get damaged. If there has been heavy snowfall, clear the snow from your windscreen by hand/brush rather than with your wipers – the weight of the snow can be deceptive and you’ll probably just end up burning out your wiper motor. You certainly don’t want to be without functioning windscreen wipers in winter with all the salt from the roads that sprays over your car.
- Remember where you parked. This sounds stupid, but it can be very hard to identify your car under a metre of snow.