Get your wheels ready for winter fun
Few sports ask you to gather together more bits and bobs than your average snow sport. First you need your sliding implement of choice (skis? board? toboggan?). Then the boots, the goggles, the helmet and all the requisite clothing. And if you’re driving up to the snowfields yourself, you’re not finished yet. You’re about to enter a very different world to your usual haul, full of new challenges in an environment fraught with dangers both to you and your car. To do it safely and reduce the risks, your car needs to be packed with the right equipment. Here’s what to sling in the boot, and what you need to think about, before you set off.
These are typically compulsory in alpine areas and you must fit them when directed to. You’ll find chain-fitting bays heading into most snowfields but if one’s not available, choose somewhere where you can pull safely off the road, with good visibility. If you own an all-wheel-drive vehicle you might not legally be required to fit snow chains but you should pack them anyway – if the snow gets really heavy, chances are you’ll still need them.
Car snow kit
Sub-zero environments have a knack of bringing out mechanical or electrical issues with your car. Snow and ice, meanwhile, make it easier to get stuck or, worse, slide off the road, so you need to be prepared for the unexpected. A shovel, tow rope and jump leads are mandatory items for getting out of snow-driving jams, and experienced snow drivers typically pack in a bag of dirt or kitty litter as well for potentially vital added traction. Wheel chocks (handbrakes can freeze in the snow), a windscreen scraper, de-icer spray, basic tool kit and reflective warning triangle or road flares should also be on the list.
Cold-weather emergency kit
Your car snow kit is designed to keep – or get – your car out of trouble. An emergency kit comes into play if you do find yourself in a worst-case scenario and stranded in sub-zero temperatures. At the very least it should include a first-aid kit, reflective emergency blanket, a torch, battery-powered radio, a good knife or multi-tool, portable battery packs for your phone and additional warm clothing and blankets, plus emergency water and food supplies. Fire-starting implements and heat packs are other good ideas.
Shivering by the side of a car isn’t the time to be grappling with something you’ve never done before, so practise fitting your snow chains before you leave. Familiarise yourself with the contents of your first-aid kit and any other relevant processes (using jump leads, setting off flares). Your car needs a little head-start, too. If it’s due for a service, do it before your holiday, not after. Before you head off, add anti-freeze to the engine coolant to prevent it from freezing and damaging your engine, and de-icer to the windscreen-fluid reservoir. If you drive a diesel, fill up on Alpine Diesel – which is formulated not to freeze in chilly conditions like the regular stuff – when you near the snowfields.
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