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Advice RE: driving to the alps

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all, I've lurked on here for a while and posted a couple of times but this is my first topic starter.

So I'm considering driving to the alps either half term or easter hols and have a couple of questions for people with experience of the drive.

I've read some threads regarding which directions and stop offs people take to minimise hold ups and maximise slope time.

So my questions are more car related

1. Tyres: I'm assuming having winter tyres will be more practical once I get close to resort, do you people have separate winter tyres that you swap to?

On the same subject tyre chains or socks?

2. Do you change your coolant to a higher concentration?
And same for screen wash?
I'm considering Germany or Austria which I've heard are colder than French resorts so the above questions might be more pertinent.

Thanks in advance


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Mon 8-01-18 14:37; edited 1 time in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I keep winters on 365 days. Over 20 k miles on last set. Screen wash I put in neat of the coldest stuff. Coolant Iíve never even thought about. Have chains with me. Parked underground which makes things easier. I doubt I will fly again.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Will you be parking outside or undercover?
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If you have winter tyres they are also good for cold weather in UK. Put them on now! I've never had problems with coolant. Low temperature screenwash is essential though. Diesel can be a problem at v low temperatures - lots of info on here about that.

If driving at half term timing is critical to avoid big delays.

Chains better than snowsocks but socks that you can use easily are better than chains left too late!
Easter far better!
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
I do a lot of driving for my job, won't winter tyres 365 affect my mpg?

Not sure about where I'll be parking, what do i need to consider if parked outside?

My cars diesel so I'll do a search for past threads on issues with that.
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If i get chains could I get away with summer tyres if i put the chains on early enough?
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@papajc, lots of good infor in here about tyres and chains (saves you going through the 100's of other threads about the same thing.

http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=134857#3162886
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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First thing to question is your motivation for driving? Because there are good reasons to do it and reasons not to. And it's not just financial.

If driving is the way you want to go it's makes more sense for that to be your general way to travel for most trips as you can organise yourself in such a way that it's cost and organisationally savvy.

On your specific questions:

1) Winters are general a good idea, even in this country. Driving to the Alps is the icing on the cake. But you should still take chains. There is a massive thread on the subject recently if you want to delve further. We have a set of wheels with summer tyres and a set of wheels with winters on. We switch them ourselves in Octoberish and Aprilish respectively.

2) You need to properly winterise your car. So yes coolant and screen wash need to have a concentration boost. If you have a diesel car fill up in the vicinity of the mountains as the fuel as an additive that prevents freezing at low temps.

Regarding the climate in general the Austria has the equivalent French weather at a little bit lower altitude than France but the resorts tend to be higher in France hence the answer ends up being not particularly. Clearly the further you drive into and the higher you drive up to the more interesting things can become weather wise. We prefer to stay at lower satellite villages for a variety of reasons but this is one of them.
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Get out early on your leaving day. Last year getting out of Tignes to a useful motorway took something like five hours rolling eyes
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papajc wrote:
I do a lot of driving for my job, won't winter tyres 365 affect my mpg?

Most people run two sets. It's not optimal to run winters year round but some do. It won't necessarily be a big problem safety or financially but it's not optimal either. Read up and make your own mind up. If you drive in your job having summers and winters is a no brainer IMO.

papajc wrote:
Not sure about where I'll be parking, what do i need to consider if parked outside?

It helps in that your car will be kept warmer during the week and you won't have to dig it out should their be a snowfall. It just often costs more money and so is just a decision you have to make. Bear in mind it won't stop you needing winters or chains obviously.
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Spin Doctor wrote:
Get out early on your leaving day. Last year getting out of Tignes to a useful motorway took something like five hours rolling eyes

Or don't. Ski during the day and leave 5pm - when it's quiet (for exiting).
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Layne wrote:
Spin Doctor wrote:
Get out early on your leaving day. Last year getting out of Tignes to a useful motorway took something like five hours rolling eyes

Or don't. Ski during the day and leave 5pm - when it's quiet (for exiting).


Yep - good call - depends if you want to drive back in a day or are prepared to stay somewhere overnight to make the timings work
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do the maths sometimes its not cheaper to drive. if you are going to a resort that has good transfers & accommodation that does not demand a car then you might be cheaper flying by the time you buy chains, fuel, autoroute tolls, food for the drive, over night accommodation if long drive, bringing your scheduled car service forward. ECT.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Skiing the final Saturday at half term is an excellent idea. As is arriving early the first Saturday. Be prepared to ski from the car as accommodation is v unlikely to be available. If driving to Austria read useful threads about how to avoid big delays round Munich.

Easter much better!!!!
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@papajc,

It was discussed in this thread
http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=134857

In Austria .....

As a tourist legally you can get away with M&S tyres and chains.
If driving from the UK I'd have all seasons and chains as a minimum for safety reasons so that in slushy/snow conditions I could drive above 50 km/h (30 mph). On summers I'm likely to hold a lot of people up in such conditions and cars with winter tyres will over take which could be dangerous.
Snow socks aren't a legal alternative to chains.
As for leaving early or late - if a big dump of snow is forecast overnight I'd go late (leave time for the roads to be cleared and the masses to fight their way through first). If the conditions are good (clear roads) with no major snow forecast than go early in front of the masses.


Last edited by Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name: on Mon 8-01-18 15:17; edited 3 times in total
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@papajc,
If youíre headed to Germany or Austria then you will need winter tyres (legally required to drive in snow/ ice conditions in those countries).

Iíd wait to buy chains until I arrived in Germany (Iím assuming youíll be travelling from UK/ channel) - good choice and price from most German service stations and you wonít need them before then anyway. You can stock up on screenwash with lower temp rating at the same time (uk garages poor at stocking stuff for below -4 IME). Coolant should be fine. As others have noted make sure you fill your tank (if diesel) with fuel in mountains as it has antifreeze additives. If you go to Aus thatís good practice anyway as their fuel cheaper.

I have run winters all through the UK summer, and noticed little difference in fuel consumption.
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Inboard wrote:
@papajc,
Iíd wait to buy chains until I arrived in Germany (Iím assuming youíll be travelling from UK/ channel) - good choice and price from most German service stations and you wonít need them before then anyway.


If you have a non-common tyre size (e.g. very large / small) then getting chains from a service station could be a problem. Service stations tend to sell cheaper quality chains at inflated prices (like their food wink ).
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@DB, thanks for that advice- good points; I found chains more cheaply in a petrol station in Donaueschingen than Iíd seen them advertised in UK but I can imagine autobahn places will be pricey. And I have no idea what quality our chains are!
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@papajc, Driving is great, we do it most of the time. Take frequent breaks and take plenty of 0.5Ä and 0.2Ä coins for the toilet stops in Germany. I agree with all the above, one other thing - in Germany especially its really critical to keep looking backwards as well as forwards, ie use mirrors - those Beemers, Mercs, Porsches and Audis come pretty fast! Don't forget your Vignette as you enter Austria either.

Other point - plan your journey, research where the key pinch points are regards roadworks, try travel at weekends (no lorries) or overnight and share the driving - don't try to do it with one driver, you need to swap regularly - and keep moving, its a long way.

We typically try to ski on say last Saturday then leave town at 4-5pm then drive 3 hours to get near Stuttgart then stay in a motorway hotel. Up early and dash for the tunnel, ie ahead the traffic. Don't try drive all the way back after skiing, ime its really hard work, too tiring.

We love driving to the Alps, all the toys in the car, tunes on...cant beat it.


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Mon 8-01-18 15:45; edited 2 times in total
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I have a separate set of winter tyres (Nokians, purchased via the internet) which I put on in the UK from December to March, and use for 1-2 trips to the Alps each winter. I have a separate set of steel rims for the winter tyes, which the local tyre depot advised would be cheaper than swopping tyres on my original set of alloy rims. I also have a set of snow socks, but have never had to use them as the winter tyres alone have been fine so far, including on relatively steep roads - last winter was using them OK on packed snow all the way up to the altiport in Meribel, when many others were messing around trying to fit chains.

Screenwash: you can get a really low temperature one from Euro Car Parts (-23C). Coolant: check whether the last service record shows the freezing point of the existing coolant in the system....the garage I use automatically include this in the service record. Also - bear in mind that some places to stay have an indoor garage (we've used one in Ischgl), so it may be less necessary to change the coolant concentration. And if you are going at Easter, the minimum temperatures may not be quite as low as they are in mid-winter.
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Inboard wrote:
@DB, thanks for that advice- good points; I found chains more cheaply in a petrol station in Donaueschingen than Iíd seen them advertised in UK but I can imagine autobahn places will be pricey. And I have no idea what quality our chains are!


You're welcome.
Thanks for taking the advice in good faith and not arguing with me for 14 pages on the Internet. wink
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Markymark29 wrote:
@papajc, Driving is great, we do it most of the time. Take frequent breaks and take plenty of 0.5Ä and 0.2Ä coins for the toilet stops in Germany. I agree with all the above, one other thing - in Germany especially its really critical to keep looking backwards as well as forwards, ie use mirrors - those Beemers, Mercs, Porsches and Audis come pretty fast! Don't forget your Vignette as you enter Austria either.

Other point - plan your journey, research where the key pinch points are regards roadworks, try travel at weekends (no lorries) or overnight and share the driving - don't try to do it with one driver, you need to swap regularly - and keep moving, its a long way.

We typically try to ski on say last Saturday then leave town at 4-5pm then drive 3 hours to get near Stuttgart then stay in a motorway hotel. Up early and dash for the tunnel, ie ahead the traffic. Don't try drive all the way back after skiing, ime its really hard work, too tiring.

We love driving to the Alps, all the toys in the car, tunes on...cant beat it.


Many good points e.g. Loo change, traffic bottlenecks (wish Sue was still here to help),Vignette & rear view mirror.

Re rear view mirror if you have a long queue of traffic behind you on a single carriage way take a break and let them pass, the locals possibly have better winter tyres and winter driving experience.
Sometimes it's better to drop out of the traffic carnage and jump in a local thermal baths (have swimming gear packed so you can easily get to it).
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Wow lots of good advice already, thanks to you all, i will read all replies more thoroughly after work.
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Advice to let locals past is good. Regardless of traffic I regularly signal and slow down to let locals past on mountain roads. Who wants an impatient Frenchman up their exhaust pipe? I generally get a flash of lights to thank me.
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@papajc, Probably get thrown off snowheads for this, but I do not have winter tyres, do not have an overnight stop, do not fill up especially close to the mountains for winter diesel, do not use a telepeage transever. I have chains (because it is a legal requirement) but in 20+ years of driving once or twice a winter to the alps only used them twice. I also don't wear a helmet, carry a rucksack while skiing or drink spirits from a hip flask during the day.

However, I would suggest filling up with at least -20 screenwash and packing a snow shovel in the car.
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In most cases, driving won't save you any money by the time you have factored in tolls, petrol, overnight stays, ferries, winter tyres (if needed), chains, parking, insurance green card, headlight adjustment, stress (if appropriate) etc. etc. However, driving to the Alps can be fun and, most importantly, it can get you an extra two days skiing for the same price. i.e. if you have accommodation booked Sat to Sat, then you can arrive at 090 on Saturday and ski all day before checking in, and the same when you leave after checking out.

At the risk of being torn asunder here, then if you are going at Easter I'd suggest the following:
1. For France, winter tyres are nice to have but summers and chains will almost certainly do absolutely fine. I can't tell you the number of times I've arrived in resort in mid-March to temperatures of around 20 centigrade.
2. Yes, do think about winterising your car, but the chances of getting temps colder than an average UK winter in March are slim. I'm quite sure the vast majority of visitors don't bother with different diesel, screenwash or anti-freeze.

You only have to glance at a Snowheads discussion about ski poles or goggles to realise we tend to get incredibly anal about the smallest details. All the advice above is good, but also worth keeping it in perspective.
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pam w wrote:
Who wants an impatient Frenchman up their exhaust pipe?


I wouldn't want him up there even if he was patient. Toofy Grin
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johnE wrote:
@papajc, Probably get thrown off snowheads for this, but I do not have winter tyres, do not have an overnight stop, do not fill up especially close to the mountains for winter diesel, do not use a telepeage transever. I have chains (because it is a legal requirement) but in 20+ years of driving once or twice a winter to the alps only used them twice. I also don't wear a helmet, carry a rucksack while skiing or drink spirits from a hip flask during the day.

However, I would suggest filling up with at least -20 screenwash and packing a snow shovel in the car.

What a very strange post. Taking each in turn...

Winter tyres: nothing wrong with that in particular. If you driving to France they are not a legal requirement. Winter tyres are safer.

Overnight stop: most times we don't either. Me and the wife swap every 2-3 hours and take in quite a bit of caffeine. It's nice to have no hold ups, much of the scenery isn't up to much in the day time and the kids sleep rather than moand. Again nothing wrong in that though for some they'd rather not - which is fine. Occasionally we stay over if bank holiday in the UK and enjoy that too.

Fill up near to the mountain - it's not often so cold that it matters but it's no big deal to time it so that it happens. And there have been instances recounted on here of freezing so it's not like it never happens.

Chains - so you've used them twice in 20 years. Sounds about right. Not sure what the problem is.

Helmet - yep, me too. What has that got to do with driving?

Rucksack/hipflask - I fear you are going off topic to make some point?

Snow shovel and a brush (to brush snow off the car) definitely a good idea.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
People who drive to the Alps for a week a year may never need chains. But when you need them, you need them. I have four good winter tyres but without chains I'd have been stuck, with two small and tired kids, in heavy snow Christmas week. On a road I've driven hundreds of times in all kinds of conditions, without chains. Just some tricksy combination of old snow, ice and new snow stopped me dead. Others were stuck too. Some Belgian lads tore branches from trees to put under their wheels. And they were strong lads. They tried to push me, but the road was so slippery they couldn't get any grip.

Mostly you'll get away without special measures. Just like few if us will ever find out how air bags work. I've sailed for years including many Channel crossings and never yet needed a life jacket!!
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@Layne,
Quote:

What a very strange post. Taking each in turn...



I interpreted the post as echoing much of what I said previously. i.e. the SH advice may be good, but you don't need to be a slave to it. It's too easy to follow this forum and believe that helmets, winter tyres, multiple layers of goretex and kevlar are absolutely essential. In reality, most of them are just 'nice to have'. In reality, all you need is a little bit of snow, a lot of sunshine ....... and a hip flask Very Happy Very Happy

[I do think chains are essential]
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 Poster: A snowHead
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johnE wrote:
do not use a telepeage transever.


You mean an avalanche transceiver? do you ski offpiste?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalanche_transceiver
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Hi been driving to the Alps for numerous years and have gone through numerous car and tyre choices.

My advice if you can afford it, get a set of steel rims for your car and a full set of winters, but have chains as well. i got my set with free delivery from here
http://www.mrwinterwheels.co.uk/

I have managed to drive into resort with normal UK road tyres on with chains in the past, however having discovered winter tyres, they make a hell of a difference.

As a minimum have all season tyres fitted, but make sure they have the mountain and snowflake symbol on, then they are legally allowed in Germany. Something like the Vredestein Quatrac 5 is a good all season tyre and i had its predecessor the Quatrac 3 on a Mondeo estate all year round. You will need chains as well.

I carry a grab bag which is always placed in the boot where i can get at it, it has a litre of antifreeze/coolant premix in, a gallon of concentrated screenwash, a litre of engine oil, spare bulbs, a few tools, i carry a snow shovel and INSIDE the cabin flourescent bibs ( legal requirement for France ). Allow at least 8 hours from say Calais to say Chambery for an overnight stop, unless snowmaggedon hits, and 2-3 hours from there to resort ( this depends on resort your going to)

Last season in January our Skoda Superb 4x4 with Good snowtyres sailed past loads of strugglers in heavy snow, didnt need chains, but i do carry Thule K Summits as the car has clearance issues for normal chains,
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Oh yes and i wear a helmet!!!( not whilst driving) I have a telepeage doofer, and a hipflask!!!
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I think the post by @johnE, is reasonable. Itís afterall a risk based set if decisions.
As others have said, it is relatively rare that conditions require chains to be used. Even rarer as it gets later in the season. I go up and down the mountain lots of times in summer and winter and you could get away with summer tyres and not using chains lots of times.

however as Pam says, when you need them you need them. Ive not had to use chains in the last ten years, even in the worst of Decemberís snow but i do have winter tyres and a 4x4. I would not want to have been one of the dozens of poor muppets i saw on the side of the road with summer tyres, trying to work out how to fit chains without gloves. you pay your money and take your choice.

The biggest tip i would give would be to avoid saturdays if you are driving. not possible for everyone but it transforms the experience.
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
@Layne,
Quote:

What a very strange post. Taking each in turn...



I interpreted the post as echoing much of what I said previously. i.e. the SH advice may be good, but you don't need to be a slave to it. It's too easy to follow this forum and believe that helmets, winter tyres, multiple layers of goretex and kevlar are absolutely essential. In reality, most of them are just 'nice to have'. In reality, all you need is a little bit of snow, a lot of sunshine ....... and a hip flask Very Happy Very Happy

[I do think chains are essential]

Possibly but the OP specifically asked for advice. Are people supposed to respond: you don't need anything mate, just wing it, you'll be alright? It was a confused message aswell because he said had chains because it was a legal requirement but then said he'd had to use them twice.
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papajac.

I drive to the alps every year at least once, and have visited Austria, France and Italy by car, I shall add my experience in the hope that it helps.
Firstly I would ask what your motivation is for driving, if it is to visit a number of resorts whilst based in one or a valley town then its a good idea IMO. This is what we do each year and always visit at least 3 resorts, sometimes more, there are some really good lift passes that cover surprisingly large areas, (especially Austria). But to travel out and stay in one place budget flights can be much cheaper, and quicker. Let me cover some of the points you mention.

Winter Tyres/Chains-Winter tyres are compulsory in Austria throughout the winter season, All season tyres with the M&S logo are I am sure are acceptable. Chains are only required on roads where a sign indicates this ( there are very few of these in my experience) most Austian resorts are valley towns and villages but with a few exeptions, research where you are considering. Socks are really only useful for putting on standard tyres, in my opinion a winter tyre will give far better grip. We have driven our old (14yrs now) Focus in some pretty deep snow over high passes and never needed the the chains but like insurance they are there, (just in case). we have witnessed brits in Italy in a 4X4 on summer tyres stuck, and we were able to pass and continue, I have winter tyres on a set of steel wheels to save the cost of keep having the tyres swapped on the alloys.

Coolant- Your coolant should be fine but if you are unsure a garage will check for a small fee, you can also purchase a tester from the likes of Amazon for a few pounds.

Screenwash- I use the high concentration -20, not a great expense.

Parking- Our car has always been parked outside in resort, once down to -18. Only problem was diesel waxing, had filled up in resort but tank already 1/2 full so diluted the effect of the local fuel anti freeze additive. If you have a diesel you may want to carry a can of diesel anti wax as a precaution, also available online but at most fuel garages in alps.

General- You say you are considering Austria or Germany, a few tips for you, I have found the quickest and most convenient way to the Tirol via France, Rheims to North of Strasbourg the crossing into Germany at Baden Baden, but you may not like the cost of the French tolls!!!. If traveling in France it is now law to carry a high vis for each passenger inside the vehicle and not in the boot, you are also required to carry a breathalizer to French standards and in date, never been asked for them but you never know.
In Germany you are required to carry warning triangle, also used to have to carry spare bulbs, tow-rope and fuel can, but not sure if these still apply.
In Austria pretty much the same as Germany, but if using motorways you will need to purchase a vignette and place it in windscreen, euro9 for 10 days.

I personally enjoy taking the car, I find it less stressful than the airport, and of course you can carry as much as your car can fit, avoiding the often expensive ski carriage charges airlines seem to be increasingly fond of. And you can if you plan ahead get 1 or 2 extra days on the slopes.

If there are any other questions you have feel free to ask, enjoy the trip.
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donl wrote:
Chains are only required on roads where a sign indicates this ( there are very few of these in my experience) most Austian resorts are valley towns and villages but with a few exeptions


Just to clarify yes there are roads with snowchain signs where even people with all tyre types (even winter) must put on chains but carrying chains and using them when the conditions dictate is also the law. i.e. if you are slipping and sliding all over the road because you have cheap M&S tyres from China you can't say "I don't need to put on chains because there isn't a sign".
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DB.

Quite agree with you, its normally pretty apparent when chains are needed, its really a matter of experience of both the conditions and of course the capabilities of the vehicle.
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Carrying Chains will be compulsory in French Alps from next season so I guess these threads will be shorter next winter Toofy Grin
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boredsurfin wrote:
Carrying Chains will be compulsory in French Alps from next season so I guess these threads will be shorter next winter Toofy Grin


Next year I might even have to stop discussing winter tyres & chains on the internet and go skiing instead. wink
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