Have your vehicle checked
Snowfield conditions may highlight any existing minor faults, particularly in the electrical system so it is essential to thoroughly check your vehicle before leaving home. Have your tyres, battery, brakes, cooling system, engine and windscreen inspected.
Add anti-freeze to your engine radiator. You’ll need to match the amount of anti-freeze to the capacity of the coolant system. If this isn’t done and the coolant freezes, the engine block and radiator may crack, leaving you stranded with an expensive repair bill. Most modern cars use coolant with wide temperature capabilities, but you’ll need to check with your service provider if special coolant is needed.You should also add anti-freeze to your windscreen washing fluid to prevent it freezing on the windscreen when driving.
Use cold-weather diesel
Diesel ‘waxes’ at low temperature which blocks the fuel system and immobilises the vehicle. If you drive a diesel vehicle, ensure you use fuel formulated for use in cold conditions, such as ‘Alpine Diesel’. This is only usually available close to the snow fields, so plan your journey to arrive with plenty of room in your fuel tank for this fuel.
Allow enough time for your trip
Ensure you allow enough time for the trip. Weather can change quickly in mountainous areas, with a corresponding effect on the roads and travel speed. Also, if authorites declare a ‘snow chain day’, there can be delays in accessing snow chain bays to fit and remove chains, and the process itself can take a considerable amount of time.
Avoid travel fatigue
Most people have to travel a considerable distance to get to the snow fields. Ensure you have regular breaks to ‘stop, revive and survive’. Even allowing for delays and distance to travel, driving to and from the snow fields can be more tiring than normal driving given the possible difficult conditions encountered – bad weather, darkness and narrow, winding roads. You are more likely to become tired because of the amount of activity you pack into a short period of time, especially at weekends. Be aware of the signs of travel fatigue and stop and rest as soon as you feel tired even if you have not scheduled a break.
Prepare for emergencies
- In case of an emergency carry a torch, blanket, dry clothes, tow rope, spade, wheel chocks and first aid kit
- Equip yourself. You’ll need the best wheel chains for the maximum grip and safety make sure you get the right size wheel chains for your cars tyres. Vehicles fitted with these chains will be given priority access to resorts in heavy snow conditions.
- Carry a spade, tow rope, ground sheet (for fitting chains), rubber gloves, plastic ice scraper, torch and warm clothes.
- Use anti-freeze compound in the radiator and take along spare heater and radiator hoses. Make sure the battery is clean and in good condition.
- Make sure all lights are working and check the condition of your tyres (including the spare).
- Check that your roof rack is well secured.
- Practice fitting chains before you leave home to ensure they are the correct size for your tyres.
- Include a spare key. Someone in the party should have a spare key to the car. If you lose it skiing or coming home from a night out it will be difficult to recover in the snow.
Practice fitting wheel chains before leaving home.