Ski season has arrived early.
Over the alpine regions of Australia snow is landing heavy and winter warriors are getting itchy for that first hit of freshly powdered action.
Cold weather means big drivwa in unfamiliar conditions. Follow these five tips to make sure the only tumble you take this snow season is on the bunny hill.
1. CHECK YOURSELF
First things first, this is a road trip. Check those tyres and make sure they will get you there safely. Special tyres aren’t needed to drive to the snow. Though the tyres will need to be in good condition, with decent tread depth, good alignment and correct pressure.
This two-minute DIY check could be the deciding factor between a ski lodge lunch and stuffing the car into a guard rail.
2. SHADY BRIDGES
Early morning drives up the mountain with the sun beaming down are a top way to beat traffic and get some clean runs before the lift lines clog.
Early morning also means residual ice from low overnight temps. Be wary of shadows across the road, where black ice can lurk for hours until the sun hits it.
Bridges and overpasses are also more susceptible to frozen patches, cross with care.
3. EASY DOES IT
If it’s below zero, don’t be a hero. Go gentle on the gas and gentle on the brakes. Use all the controls as consciously as possible. Double the distance from the car in front, use the cars gears to slow down and drive as smoothly as possible. If you have a 4WD, AWD or snow mode that you can turn on, now is the time.
4. FROZEN SPARK
Automotive electrical systems are vulnerable to the cold, and in the snow A/C and demister systems are non-negotiables. If there are any doubts, especially if driving an older car it will pay dividends to pop-in to an auto electrician before the trip.
Same goes for your cooling system. They call it anti-freeze for a reason.
5. CHAIN GAME
Not in an AWD or 4WD? Carrying snow chains is mandatory. You can hire a set of chains at most ski-hire shops and service stations in alpine regions. They can help find the right size and type for most vehicles.
Sat on the side of the road in a blizzard, family in car, light and temperature disappearing and reception unavailable. A situation guaranteed to make a first chain fitting a hand numbing, scarring memory.
The trick to a more pleasant experience? A dry run. Ask the store to demonstrate fitting, and then have a go. Get a feel for the process, this will make fitting in difficult conditions straight forward.
Remember, chains are applied to the driven wheels, rear-wheel drive means chains on the back. If you aren’t sure where to apply the chains, check your cars manual.
Once chains are on, stick to 30km/h and don’t exceed 50km/h. Where possible, try to keep the tyres turning and breaking up any ice or packed snow. Once clear of the slippery stuff, pull over and remove the chains to avoid damaging the road.
One last tip – this might be the longest car trip of the year, don’t try and drive home after the lifts close and you’re exhausted. Fatigue kills.