If you want to slay some powder (talking about snow) on the Aussie winter slopes but aren’t 100% on the ins and outs of how to drive to the conditions, you’re in the right place.
Driving in the snow is clearly very different to driving in dry or even icy conditions. It’s slippery. It’s bright on the eyes. And requires a style of planning ahead that’s a bit different to what you’d need on a typical holiday like camping.
The good news is though, learning to drive in the snow isn’t scary – you can do this! The remainder of this article tells you how…
How to drive in the snow
So you wanna join the drivers’ snow club, ay? Complete your initiation by reading the following driving tips. It covers everything you’ll need on your journey to be the king or queen of the mountain…
- The first rule of driving in the snow club is patience. Instead of the go, go, go we’re used to on city roads, you’ll need to go slow, slow, slow on the snow to keep in control of your ride.
- Remember when your parents told you to look a few cars ahead as you drive? The same principle applies here. Look ahead to anticipate how to respond to conditions.
- Obey road signage. Enough said.
- Don’t be douche – if you’re on a resort, listen to the people in charge and park only where it is permitted. They’re there to keep you and others safe.
- Accelerate slowly. It’ll help you gain traction quicker.
- Brake with steady pressure. Hard braking might cause your vehicle to skid or slip.
- Listen to your car. If your dashboard is lighting up like a Christmas tree, there’s a good chance you’ve lost traction and need to ease up on the gas.
- Use your lowest gear when driving down the mountain. Drive an auto? Throw it into 1.
- Use snow chains when advised
Fact for the day
Grip is something that is measured on a scale called the “coefficient of friction”. Typically results fall somewhere between 0 (no grip) and 1 (lots of grip). The grip your car has in the snow is said to be around .15. To put that into perspective, driving on wet glass offers a level of grip around .10.
- Don’t brake as you turn. Decelerate and or brake (gently) before you get to your turn to reduce the risk of losing control in the bend.
- Use your low beams at night. Unfortunately, heavy fog and mist can’t be pierced with your high beams on.
- If the weather is too crazy to continue driving, pull over and throw on your hazard lights. We also suggest you keep the engine running to ensure you can go again when conditions ease.
- Parking overnight or for an extended period? All the snow resorts suggest you lift the wipers from the windscreen to ensure your wipers do not freeze to the glass.
- Do you rock a dual-fuel (LPG/petrol) engine? We recommend you switch over from gas before you get to the snow and run on petrol while you’re in the ski area. Why? Petrol can handle temperatures of -30OC but Gas might struggle to start in frosty weather.
- Take a bag of salt. Overnight your windscreen will build up with ice which can be cleared quickly by mixing salt with cold water.
Advice before you go
- Check your lights – headlights, brake lights, indicators and fog lights (if fitted). If they’re not working or running a little dull, you should get them fixed
- Drive a diesel vehicle? Regular diesel can freeze at temperatures below 0OC so fill up your tank with “Alpine Diesel” before you hit the snow.
- If your car battery is around 3 – 5 years old i.e. reaching the end of its normal life, consider getting it checked by your mechanic to ensure it’s still in good working order. The cold will put extra strain on the battery and will require one that’s up for the journey.
- A lot of people recommended adding anti-freeze into your coolant, but the fact is most coolants already have anti-freeze in it – even the cheap ones. If you’re unsure, talk to your mechanic.
- Pack your sunglasses – snow glare is super bright.
- Practice fitting your snow chains. They’re usually, simple to fit but it’s better to practice in dry, warmer conditions than on the side of a mountain.
The playing rules
Australian law requires you to use snow chains on your vehicle when instructed. The only difference is drivers in NSW are not required to use snow chains when driving a 4WD (you do otherwise). New driver? It is still highly recommended that you use a set of snow chains to give yourself extra control. Don’t take it personally – I’d use them, and I’ve been driving for over a decade!
Renting a car? Usually you’re not permitted to take your rental up in the snow but check with your hirer as they may allow it.
Advice as you leave
- Make sure you don’t have any snow sitting on your vehicle. For one, you could cop a fine from the police, but more importantly, it’s a hazard to you (brake and it would it slide onto your windscreen) and others.
The final word
Driving in the snow is a fun experience and one we definitely recommend taking on (what’s life without a good challenge)! To be the true king or queen of the mountain though, you need to plan ahead and have the car accessories at hand to be as safe as possible. Also remember, to obey the signage and officials on the slopes – they’re there to help you.
Need a set of snow chains? Visit fitmycar.com and search your vehicle to find a set that fits!