While the rules may vary from mountain to mountain, most alpine resorts in Australia have made it mandatory to carry snow chains and require you to fit them when instructed to do so during the snow season (this includes 4x4 vehicles).
Having said that, some of you are probably wondering whether this added expense is really necessary particularly when fine weather is forecast. Before you contemplate cutting this corner, remember weather can be unpredictable, can change quickly and forecasts are not always reliable. It would be very disappointing to arrive at the base of the mountain after a long trip and not be able to ascend because of heavy snow fall during your 4 hour car journey. Or, worse yet, not be able to get back down at the end of your day because late unexpected snowfall is now covering the road.
Hiring chains is usually around $25-$50 per day and there are often plenty of hire venues at the base of the mountains where you can pick up a set anytime of the day or night. Be sure to check availability and opening hours before you leave.
Some things to keep in mind;
Know your tyre size - You will be asked this in order to get the right fit. The size can be found on the outer wall of your tyre and usually consists of three sets of numbers (ie. 155/80-13 being tyre width in mm, tyre size in inches, tyre rim diameter) . If you purchase your own chains, be sure to check the size chart for your tyre size. Ill fitting chains can cause damage and obviously won't be as effective.
Know how to fit the chains - read instructions, watch a video or pay attention to the hiring attendant when you are given the fitting instructions. Have a practice at home before you go if you have your own. Being prepared will save you a lot of time and stress in the event that you do need to fit them.
Only fit chains when you are instructed to - Resort management will instruct you via signage or have staff positioned alongside the road to issue instructions. Do not drive with snow chains fitted on bear asphalt.
Fit chains in the designated chain bays alongside the road - do not stop in the middle of the road and obstruct traffic, pull into a designated chain bay or stopping area.
Pack and old pair of gloves - You will be fitting chains in cold and snowy conditions so you will need to protect your hands. Chains are often greasy and dirty so pack an old set of gloves for protection. Thick gloves will obstruct your mobility so find a pair that will offer some protection but will also allow you to handle the chains with precision. Keep them in an accessible location so that you can find them quickly.
Drive normally - once fitted, drive normally at a reduced speed (no more than 40km per hour). Apply gradual pressure to the accelerator to avoid wheel spin. Follow Resort Management speed instructions at all times.
If you think you might like your own set of snow chains and are considering buying a preowned set be sure to check that they are in good condition and do not have any missing parts. At Back to the Slopes we often stock good quality preowned chains. Hire companies also often sell some of their excess stock at the end of the season so look out for sales. Remember, if you change your car your may need to change your snow chains.
Need more info, read our Tips for Driving to the Snow.