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Advice RE: driving to the alps

 Poster: A snowHead
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In France the "chains " signs do NOT mean you have to have chains on. People are not running round taking down and putting up roadsigns as conditions change during the day! Laughing
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In Austria they are generally permanent signs that clap open to display the snowchain requirement.

This sign means snow chains are required for all vehicles except all-wheel drive vehicles.
https://www.jeepforum.de/pics/U2738-1276643636.jpg
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donl wrote:
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.


Genuinely, maybe dumb, question: What happens when one approaches longer tunnels with chains on - do you stop and remove chains or just drive slowly on tarmac to the other side?
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I wrote a Guide to Winter Wheels, Tyres & Chains which the OP might find useful:

http://www.babybmw.net/howtos/Winter%20Wheels%20Guide%202%20Series%20v3.pdf

It's for BMW 2 Series owners with a focus on performance models but 95% of it is generic (xDrive is the BMW AWD and M-Lite are the high-performance models that aren't the full-on 'M' type. DTC and DSC are different BMW traction control settings)

All I'd add to what's already been said is (a) if you have traction settings on your car, read-up about them ahead of the trip rather than (as I did recently) waiting 'till you're actually driving on the snow (my Owner's manual is pretty confusing on what to use when) and (b) some types of chains fit multiple sizes of tyre and need adjustment to the links before fitting to your specific tyre size, so for these types, buying in the UK and doing the link adjustments ahead of the trip is preferable to trying to do this in the dark, cold and snow up a mountain.
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Ozboy wrote:
donl wrote:
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.


Genuinely, maybe dumb, question: What happens when one approaches longer tunnels with chains on - do you stop and remove chains or just drive slowly on tarmac to the other side?


Good question, for long tunnels you would take the chains off. It's illegal to drive on a tarmac road that isn't completely covered with ice and snow plus the snow chains could be damaged which could in turn damage the car as they break and fly off.

The longest tunnel in Austria is almost 14 km (8.75 miles) long
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_von_Tunneln_in_%C3%96sterreich


Last edited by Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do. on Mon 8-01-18 21:18; edited 1 time in total
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DB wrote:
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


You never know.... Toofy Grin
All you need is a hire car and socks anyway....
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I have a golf estate . 4WD and Michelin Cross climates (all season tyres but they have the snowflake symbol...)

Should be OK ??
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The last time we drove to Andorra, my ex asked if we could fly, flights were £1250 for four of us including fuel to the airport, parking and transfers. Driving cost us £600 less the saving on a boot full of cheap french plonk. In early days when the crossing was free on tesco points, fuel was cheaper, we stayed off peage and we drank a lot more, the saving on wine & beer was enough to cover the cost of taking the car (VW Sharan, the kids had wine boxes as footrests)
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donl wrote:
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.


Hi thanks for the reply.

My motivation for driving would to some degree be financial, however i am aware it might not necessarily be cheaper to drive factoring in all the other expenses but some of them once purchased will last a few trips or more. The other factor would be the relative freedom that driving would bring. I've driven into france a couple of times to go camping so i've already got most if not all the mandatory stuff.

Budget flights maybe somewhat cheaper but when you've factored in transfers to and from the airport on both sides, baggage as i have my own gear and all the hassle of carting your luggage about, packing a car on one end and unpacking on the other is far more appealing.

Thanks for the tips Very Happy
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sheffskibod wrote:
I have a golf estate . 4WD and Michelin Cross climates (all season tyres but they have the snowflake symbol...)

Should be OK ??


You should still carry chains but the risk of you ever using them will be very small. In your position I'd buy cheap chains that I could take back for a refund.
Your radial tyres need to have a tread depth of at least 4mm (5mm for diagonal tread patterns)
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@DB, Thanks - I meant tunnels that are shorter - maybe a few kms?
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@Ozboy,
I‘d take them off after a few metres. This is one of the problems with a summer tyre and chain combo as you need to put chains on earlier with summer tyres whereas winter tyres deal with all but the worst of conditions. Taking off and then putting on chains in a tunnel while all the other drivers are whizzing past on winter tyres would be no fun esp if you have gotten away with it for 20 years.
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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


I was stopped by the gendarmes to check I had them. They will not let you up the mountain without them.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
That's sometimes true - and you cannot continue without putting them on - but in many years of lots of Alpine driving that's only happened to me once. It's usually on busy transfer days, when I try to avoid the roads. IMO they should insist more often.
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pam w wrote:
That's sometimes true - and you cannot continue without putting them on - but in many years of lots of Alpine driving that's only happened to me once. It's usually on busy transfer days, when I try to avoid the roads. IMO they should insist more often.


The last two days I was driving there were gendarmes forcing people into the areas to put their chains on, the other day I was driving there was no need for chains and the gendarmes were randomly pulling people over and checking to see people had snow chains.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Glad to hear it!

If not mentioned before on this thread - worth a reminder to avoid using hand brake when there's lots of snow around.
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At risk of repeating what has probably been said many times before, you do need to bear in mind that the snow tyre/chain thing is very different when it comes to Austria/Germany v France. The skiing resorts in France are generally a lot higher and involve significantly riskier routes/hairpin bends, steep inclines, mild climate drivers, etc. In Austria/Germany you are nearly always on the flat as the vast majority of resorts are between 650-1200metres, basically the valleys, and everyone has winter tyres.

As such, there are very few resorts in Austria/Germany that are accessed on roads that would ever require chains. Apart from that, Austrian A roads and most minor ones, are usually kept clear with military efficiency and the chances of variable conditions along your route are too high to make chains convenient. A 40cm fall will be cleared in double quick time, at least to a level suitable for M+S kit. Roads are salted mercilessly with high grade stuff we can only dream of here. Chains on tarmac are lethal and you will be in a tunnel at some point, no doubt. IMHO unless you are planning on driving over some unlikely mountain pass, then winter tyres (compulsory - madness to go without them) will be fine for 90%+ of Austria/Germany. Check where you're going before you make a costly investment.

France is a completely different story.
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papajc wrote:
My motivation for driving would to some degree be financial, however i am aware it might not necessarily be cheaper to drive factoring in all the other expenses but some of them once purchased will last a few trips or more.

Let's cut to the chase - 4/5 people, with a lot of kit, in striking distance of the English Channel, self catering, who want to ski 'driveable' ski resorts.. it almost a no brainer. Go full out with car prep and bobs your uncle. Start to remove each of those factors it becomes ever more marginal.

papajc wrote:
The other factor would be the relative freedom that driving would bring.

Mmmm... the freedom is in getting there in the most efficient way. If that is what you mean then bang on. There is a niche freedom of being able to drive around the vicinity but in most cases that is anything but.

papajc wrote:
I've driven into france a couple of times to go camping so i've already got most if not all the mandatory stuff.

What mandatory stuff are we talking about here?
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DB wrote:
johnE wrote:
do not use a telepeage transever.


You mean an avalanche transceiver? do you ski offpiste?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalanche_transceiver


Toll tag.

I do have one and it is a very handy little bit of equipment especially if your vehicle is under 2m and you can drive through the peages at 30km/h whilst everyone else ques up to pay or take a ticket.
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It's certainly worth having a peage tag but the suggestion that "everyone else" queues up is a little fanciful. More and more cars have tags -evidenced by the fact that, these days, almost all toll lanes read them. Which means that the advantage of having one has been eroded. And by no means all toll stations include a 30kph lane. In heavy traffic with long queues you'll queue too!
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And still certainly worth having the peage tag if you are driving on your own. It still surprises me though that more French car owners still do not have them. Just seems to make sense.
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And you can get a Disco with roof box through most of the 2m ones, even though it is 2.6m

There is only one barrier which is at 2m, on the Reims bypass
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@Boris, I do duck a bit though when I think we are pushing our luck with the roof box. Still recall the infamous occasion in a multi storey car park in Chichester when my driver refused to believe me that we would not fit, I think he had forgotten that although the roof box was old the car might have been a newer one.
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We always drive to the Alps -- but we live in Paris so it's not an overnight trip (unless we want it to be). I like the "skiing two extra days" argument. Cost is also a factor if you travel during school breaks. Driving will almost certainly be cheaper if you own a car already, at least for 4 people or more.

All the above advice is pretty good. My 2 centimes: don't worry about snow/winter tires: go with metal chains or mesh ones; practice putting them on in the comfort of your driveway or a dry rest stop, then put them away CAREFULLY so they're not snagged. This is the lest expensive and simplest solution, if not the most elegant.

Take an old towel or blanket plus work gloves; xtra winterized windshield cleaner. A collapsible avalanche shovel is great to have, even for building snow forts for your kids.

If you get a big snow dump in the resort, clean off your car and clear a path to the street the day BEFORE you have to leave. How do I know this...??
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Layne wrote:
papajc wrote:
My motivation for driving would to some degree be financial, however i am aware it might not necessarily be cheaper to drive factoring in all the other expenses but some of them once purchased will last a few trips or more.

Let's cut to the chase - 4/5 people, with a lot of kit, in striking distance of the English Channel, self catering, who want to ski 'driveable' ski resorts.. it almost a no brainer. Go full out with car prep and bobs your uncle. Start to remove each of those factors it becomes ever more marginal.

papajc wrote:
The other factor would be the relative freedom that driving would bring.

Mmmm... the freedom is in getting there in the most efficient way. If that is what you mean then bang on. There is a niche freedom of being able to drive around the vicinity but in most cases that is anything but.

papajc wrote:
I've driven into france a couple of times to go camping so i've already got most if not all the mandatory stuff.

What mandatory stuff are we talking about here?


I may be reading it wrong as type can come across wrong but your reply appears quite condescending!

My original reply might not have included enough info for you but I'll take this time to reassure you I'm old enough and wise enough to listen to (read) the advice, weigh up the pros and cons including the financial implications and make an informed decision on the best way to get my family and I to the glorious snow
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@papajc, I didn't read his reply that way.

Any thread about driving is going to include responses about cost-benefit analysis.

"Freedom" is also a legitimate point of discussion. I think we actually use the car once we're at the station maybe once or twice -- it's the hassle of parking in town, avoiding alcohol at dinner so you aren't driving over the limit, waiting for skibus or using ski depot vs. dumping soggy gear and people in your car etc...for me the freedom is to take more stuff, that's about it...
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Pasigal wrote:
All the above advice is pretty good. My 2 centimes: don't worry about snow/winter tires: go with metal chains or mesh ones; practice putting them on in the comfort of your driveway or a dry rest stop, then put them away CAREFULLY so they're not snagged. This is the lest expensive and simplest solution, if not the most elegant.


Your approach might work for france but for Austria only metal chains to a specific norm are legal.
The mesh type (e.g. michelin easy grip) are also not very good on ice as they don't cut into hardpacked snow / ice as well.
https://www.adac.de/infotestrat/tests/autozubehoer-technik/schneeketten_2011/default.aspx


If someone is injured by your vehicle and you are found not to have your car correctly kitted out for winter in accordance with the law than you could be fined €5000 in Austria.
https://www.oeamtc.at/thema/vorschriften-strafen/winterausruestungspflicht-welche-bestimmungen-gelten-fuer-pkw-16186948 (look under "Strafen")
On top of this there are insurance implications, insurance companies have been know not to pay out the full amount in such cases. A multi-car pile up could have you remortgaging your house or forcing you into bankruptcy.

Yes sure people wing it for years and years but if they happen to get caught in serious winter conditions it could be costly. Add to this the hassle of having to put chains on more often when not driving with winter tyres plus the drastically reduced roadholding capabilities and increased braking distances which in turn put the people in the car and other people on the road at risk for me it's a no brainer.

The winters seem to be getting more and more unpredictable, the coldest march in the last 130 years ocurred in 2013. Even at the end of march 2013 it was still minus 6.
https://www.focus.de/panorama/welt/kaeltester-maerz-seit-130-jahren-die-deutschen-fliehen-in-scharen-vor-dem-marathon-winter_aid_949886.html

To kit your car out with winter or allseason tyres and chains we are talking a few hundred pounds which can be spread over a few years. It will also make your car safer during the winter back in the UK. Why people wing it putting themselves and others at risk is beyond me.
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^^Good to know about Austria, @DB. Sounds like the best option is to get metal chains and practice putting them on.

To be clear, I am not at all advocating "winging it" -- just that the endless debate over all-season/winter/snow tires seems a bit off topic when metal chains will satisfy all countries' most stringent requirements.

When we were driving down from Valloire on Dec. 30 in a blizzard just below the freezing point, I was glad to have chains, even though we were going only about 15 kmh. I'm pretty sure the gendermes at the checkpoint were turning away drivers without chains. And also that the drivers struggling with their chains at said checkpoint were regretting not putting them on in the Maurienne Valley when they had a chance..
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DB wrote:
To kit your car out with winter or allseason tyres and chains we are talking a few hundred pounds.

slight underestimation, I would say £1000.00 for a set of winter tyres & snow chains, even more if you want to put them on there own rims.
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Jonny996 wrote:
DB wrote:
To kit your car out with winter or allseason tyres and chains we are talking a few hundred pounds.

slight underestimation, I would say £1000.00 for a set of winter tyres & snow chains, even more if you want to put them on there own rims.


Depends on the car and tyre size.

I’ve just been quoted £175 fitted per tyre from blackcirckes for Dunlop Winter Sport 5 size 245/4/18. The chains are £175 for Thule cu09 - the high cost is due to the easy fit mechanism. Swapping tyres over is £15 per tyre (twice a year) from local garage. Refurbed second set of Mercedes alloy rims is £800. I am not going to worry about getting second set of rims and will just pay £120 a year to swap tyres over.
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@Ozboy, so about £1000 all in. I don't think anyone is going to go from premium branded summer tyres to cheap winters , so your choice is fair & if you are going to that effort you want to get easy fit chains, so again your choice id fair.
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Jonny996 wrote:
DB wrote:
To kit your car out with winter or allseason tyres and chains we are talking a few hundred pounds.

slight underestimation, I would say £1000.00 for a set of winter tyres & snow chains, even more if you want to put them on there own rims.


A lot will depend on the wheel sizes, for larger cars it will be well over a grand but over 5 years the costs will be a few hundred pounds a year.
I paid about €120 per winter tyre plus €120 for high quality chains plus the cost of steel rims which were around €50 so around €800 but yes it it's probably dearer in the UK.
Tyre size = 205/55/R16
Of course you offset wear on your summer tyres which which amount to something around a €200 saving.
If you run allseasons all year round then where are the extra costs? Chains are a legal requirement they are not an option. Do you really want to risk a €5000 fine, an insurance claim and getting stranded for the sake of a set of snowchains?

Would it be worth winging it for £1000.00? (£200.00 / year over 5 years)
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@Jonny996, other than the initial outgoing of cash, I don’t see paying for winters as an extra cost as it’s effectively doubling the life of my summers. It all breaks even down the road. We only do 6000 miles a year if that so barring any punctures etc should not have to buy tyres again for at least 5 years. In my head the annual £120 (£60 x 2) tyre change over fee gets written off as part of cost of skiing.
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@Jonny996, I agree with DB.

I got a set of 4 steel rims and winter tyres (Conti wintercontact) for c£400 - for an Octavia estate, fitted in Edinburgh. Replacement tyres are c£65-95, depending where you buy them.

Is there any reason for alloys with winters beyond aesthetics?
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Quote:

slight underestimation, I would say £1000.00 for a set of winter tyres & snow chains, even more if you want to put them on there own rims.

It totally depends on the size of the wheels you have on the car ...You can buy a perfectly decent snow tyre from about £50 per wheel and chains from about £20 for 205/50/16 s https://www.oponeo.co.uk/

As stated earlier you have to purchase a vignette in Austria but you can now do it online but you have to buy at least 18 days before and you don't have to display anything if you do https://www.asfinag.at/toll/vignette/

I certainly recommend cold weather additive for diesel cars ..mine gelled up last winter and I bought some to use in the UK its not expensive and you add a little at each fill up...and remember you have to have all the documentation for the car with you ..ie insurance certificates V5 and license
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@Inboard, alloys preference for me due to aesthetics. I am happy to go to the local garage to get them fitted. If I have tyres already on rims I would probably take it to to the garage anyway as I live in central London, with only Street parking on a narrow road, and it will take me longer to jack up the car 4 times. (My car doesnt come with a jack - just a can of spray!!)
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Pasigal wrote:
^^Good to know about Austria, @DB. Sounds like the best option is to get metal chains and practice putting them on.

To be clear, I am not at all advocating "winging it" -- just that the endless debate over all-season/winter/snow tires seems a bit off topic when metal chains will satisfy all countries' most stringent requirements.


Just to be clear summer tyres without M&S do not satisfy the legal requirements for tourists in Austria.
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@Ozboy, interesting, thanks!

Re swapping logistics, I’m in a slightly similar situation - top floor flat in central Edinburgh with limited storage (which is already taken up with skis/ bikes etc!), but am fortunate that I can store and swap out-of-season wheels at my parents’ place in the country...
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I always end up paying about £105 per tyre for Nokian WRA4s in 215/55 17" V rating. They work pretty good during summer also, and my local garage charges £20 to change 4 tyres. Once they fall near to 5mm tread depth I just keep them as summer tyres.
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i agree that winters & chains is the best way to go BUT lets not kid ourselves that we can divide the cost by 5 years. I change my car every 2 years & the chance of the kit fitting the next car is very slim.
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