For most of us, a trip to the snow means a lengthy car ride through terrain you may not be used to driving in. Below are some tips for getting yourself and a car full of loved ones safely up and down the mountain this winter.
Service your vehicle - make sure that your car is running optimally. Mountain destinations are often remote. Mobile phone service may not be available during parts of your journey, roadside assistance may be some distance away and spare parts may not be readily accessible in small towns (particularly after hours).
Check your tyres - Make sure that your tyres are in good condition and have ample tread as alpine roads are often wet, windy and can be slippery.
Purchase or hire snow chains - and know how to fit them. For more information, see our article - Do I need snow chains?
Keep your eyes on the road - sightseeing for the driver isn't recommended. Stay focused on the road ahead.
Be patient and let others pass - A degree of patience is needed when driving up mountain roads. Alpine roads are often narrow. Some drivers are more confident than others. If you are driving slowly, be sure to look out for wider sections of road where you can pull over and let others overtake safely.
Do not overtake moving vehicles
Stay in your lane - especially on bends where you cannot see oncoming traffic.
Beware of large vehicles such as tourist buses, supply trucks or snow machinery - slow down if they are coming in the opposite direction and give them ample room as they may need extra lane space on the road.
Beware of fallen branches and rocks - always look ahead and drive at a speed that allows you ample breaking time to avoid hazards.
Look out for orange snow pole markers - these are tall reflective orange poles that mark the road edge. Do not drive if viability is so low that you cannot see the road edge or the poles. Make sure the poles are always to your left.
Park in the designated parking areas only
Lift you windscreen wipers - so they don't freeze to the window
Pack a small shovel - this is more important if you are staying for a few nights. You may need to clear the snow from around your tyres if there has been heavy snowfall in order to drive out.
Remove snow from your roof - if your car has been parked on the mountain in snowfall there may be a build up of snow on your roof. As you drive, this snow can dislodge and slide down onto your windscreen in large pieces blocking viability.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it will start you thinking about your drive. Do as much research as you think you need to feel confident.
Accidents can cause closure of the entire road, serious injury or fatality so always drive with the utmost caution and focus. If you are not confident driving up or down the mountain you might want to explore the availability of bus services that operate from the base of the mountain. You should always book these tickets in advance. Alternatively, you might like to plan your trip to ensure that you are ascending and descending the mountain during daylight hours for improved visibility.
Stay safe on the roads this winter and happy snow travels.