Winter driving conditions

Winter driving conditions can vary enormously on the drive from your home to the Alps; even from Grenoble airport to Le Château. Ideally your car should have winter tyres but if not, you should have chains. Generally the Autoroutes are well maintained and clear of snow, as are the roads from Grenoble to Le Château. Access to our private car park is easy and well maintained. If you would like to chat about any aspects of this, please give me a call on 04 76 80 36 58.

Some winter driving tips:

Please remember these tips are to help you deal with “worst case” scenarios, it’s not like this all the time. Check with us just before setting out if you need up to date information.

Lots of people drive to their winter holidays every year without any problems at all.

It’s not that hard and usually the roads are clear of snow and dry in the mountains. However, you could be arriving in the middle of a “big dump” and that requires some forethought.

Having your car well maintained is always a good idea and you certainly don’t want it to break down in the middle of a snowstorm, in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere.

Winter tyres solve a lot of winter driving problems. They are not just for snow, they are for temperatures below 7˚C so they will work well in the UK too. Summer tyres just don’t work as well when it’s cold and don’t grip the snow well when cornering or braking. Have a look at this YouTube video from Auto Express:

Winter tyres are available at any UK tyre supplier though prices vary. In the UK it seems that many suppliers will only supply tyres and rims together. This does make it more expensive but you can specify the cheapest steel rims. You may want to specify the narrowest rims that will fit on your car.

If you keep your summer tyres on all year then chains are essential. When snow is falling heavily the Gendarmerie will often set up a vehicle check well down the road from the resort to ensure that you are properly equipped. You may have to fit your chains at this point. If you do not have any, you may be sent to purchase some.

You can buy these in the UK from places like Halfords and from amazon.co.uk; order them well in advance. Prices vary with the size of your wheels from £25 to £250. They usually last years when well looked after.

Do practice putting the chains on, it’s a bit fiddly to begin with. Remember that when you do actually have to put them on you will probably be on a snowy, dark and unlit road. The wheel arch will also be full of snow and your hands will get cold very quickly. Once they are on you will have to tighten them a couple of times in the next 500m before they are perfectly secure.

You are limited to 30mph/50kph when chains are fitted. In the snow they give excellent grip but on dry tarmac they are noisy and quite slippery. Drive gently, aggressive acceleration or braking can break chains.

Other solutions apart from conventional chains, like “snow socks” are available; our guests experience has varied from “brilliant” to “useless”. At least with chains you know they are going to work.

It’s certainly possible that just fitting winter tyres will solve all your problems but do bear in mind that a conventional front wheel drive car fully loaded with a family and kit will have less pressure on the driven wheels, so less grip, than normal. Chains will solve this even with winter tyres.

It is generally acknowleged that a 4×4 with summer tyres is not as good as a 2 wheel drive with winter tyres.

If it does snow, the roads do become wet and spray is thrown up by traffic. Your normal screenwash just won’t be good enough. Buy some premixed winter screen wash specified to the lowest temperature you can. I usually use -30˚C or -20˚C. It’s never that cold but it ensures that it keeps the system working. Do make sure that you have purged your summer screenwash before starting out.

You could also consider putting on some outdoor shoes or have them within reach; a low-cut, moccasin-style driving loafer will fill with snow the moment you step out of the car.

If you leave your car overnight and it snows heavily, you must clear all the snow off it before driving to conform to French law. The best thing to use is a dustpan style brush not a scraper; wear gloves. Remove all the snow from the glass and lights. Remove all the snow off the roof; if it falls forward when you brake it will blind you and may snap the windscreen wipers off (it happened to me, very inconvenient). Never clear a layer of snow off the windscreen by using the wipers, they are very easy to break. If you know it is going to snow pull the wipers away from the glass, it will stop them freezing to the windscreen.

Lastly, please remember that you must have a Hi Viz vest in the car and it MUST be within reach of the driver so that it can be worn before exiting the car.