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Who has used snow chains?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
In 20 years of weekend warrior driving with winter tyres (typically 1.5 to 6 hrs each way) I've only needed to put snow chains on my winter tyres a few times.

Hochkar is a ski resort with a long alpine approach road up to around 1400m altitude. Sometimes they display a compulsory snow chain sign. I've used snow chains 3 times at this resort.

Tauplitz has a similar high alpine access road - used chains there too.

Gerlitzen ski resort in kärnten has an approach road up to a car park at the back. Stayed in a hotel on the peak and needed chains to get up.

On the way to Hochkar once it was snowing that heavily that I couldn't keep up with the snowplough and had to get the snow chains out. Turned out to be a fantastic powder day, would have been even better if I knew how to ski powder at the time. Embarassed rolling eyes

With my first set of winter tyres I didn't realise that winter tyres had a shelf life and couldn't get up a hill in Obertauern with my 6+ year old winter tyres. Had to chain up.

Chains are like avalanche equipment or condoms, you never know when you will need them but if you do and don't have them, you are lost without them.

So who else has had to chain up?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Yup, in NZ a few times, Mt Hutt and Ruapehu. You definitely wouldn't want to be sliding around on some of the approach roads to those fields. A fair few vehicles slide off into gullies every year.

Some numpties manage it before they hit the steep stuff as they think driving an Audi Q8 makes them bullet proof with its 4wd.


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Tue 29-10-19 10:36; edited 1 time in total
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@DB, around 30 years ago in the French Alps before the advent of winter tyres.

Since living in Austria with compulsory winter tyres, no need at all.
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Only in the Australian hills.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@DB, I have made no secret of the fact that I don't currently use winter tyres. Therefore you should expect that my use of chains will be more frequent than most.

In 2004/6 I did seasons in Val Thorens. I used chains on a few occasions to get out of the car park and for a short distance down the mountain. With easy fit chains it wasn't really an issue.

In 2017/8 I used chains about three or four times - in every case to get into an overground parking space before the season had started and clearance wasn't taking place.

In 2018/9 I didn't use chains at all.

Irrespective of the winter/summer/all seasons tyre issue, I wouldn't dream of going up the mountains without chains on board.
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13 years living here - just twice that I can recall. Once in our street which was so rutted the wheel went down and didnt come back up - slow speed due to giving way was the main issue! The other time - oncoming ski bus, I went into the field to let it pass - the car wasnt coming out of there either! Only one chain needed both times though - for about 2 meters! Other than that, snow tyres have ruled! Ange.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Used chains a few times when had 2-wheel drive and ordinary tyres - a couple of times to get out of resort at the end of Easter holiday, rather than to get in.
Now with 4-wheel drive and winter tyres hoping to never go through the misery again, but will have a cheap set of chains to show to Gendarmes just in case they get extra Gallic.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Jonpim, thanks for pointing out the issue of 4 wheel drive. I've not needed chains since I got that, although it hadn't previously occurred to me.
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I had snow chains when I was driving and living in a Peugeot Boxer van in the Alps. Used many times for differing reasons. Most frequent places of use were places where I frequently went. Mainly on the road to Tignes or Val d'Isere. The bit after the big lay by set aside for putting chains on was usually when I needed them. More often it was on the road to Tignes rather than Val d'Isere.

Sometimes, I risked driving without snow chains, and got stuck on the way to Tignes just before the covered tunnel. Had to put the chains on when it was snowing, on a steep incline, in the dark. Luckily, I had done it before, and had become quite expert using those particular chains.

I would often use the chains in outside car parks after snow and when stuck due to compacted snow, and to get out of the car park where it had a steep exit which was covered with compacted snow. (or uncleared snow)

The snow chains could be adapted to fit my MX5 as well, which came in very useful as MX5's are apauling in icy snow conditions (rear wheel drive and very light weight).
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A couple of times in the Berkshire alps and three or four times in the French Alps.

@Alastair, At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, four wheel drive may help you 'go' but it doesn't make any difference at all trying to 'stop' - Although Hill Descent Control can make a huge difference in some circumstances. I fully agree with your comment about not going up the mountains without chains on board - regardless of tyres (and 4wd)
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Mt Hotham in Australia, where at the same time Cat III Autoland Toofy Grin would have been useful: though daylight, the sky was white and so was the road. Could not tell where was the edge of the road.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Twice in over 20 years of driving to the Alpes, Once in january and once in April. Both times were when arriving at the base of the climb upto 1600 in the early hours of the morning, well before the traffic has had time to clear the road.

Like @Alastair, I don't use winter tyres, or summer tyres for that matter, just ordinary ones
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So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@foxtrotzulu, agreed. Some cars have four wheel drive. All cars have four wheel braking. However 4WD cars do have better control in marginal conditions, particularly in conditions when engine braking is relevant.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
DB wrote:
So who else has had to chain up?
A number of times, but never since using winter tyres on a rental or my own car. I now have car with AWD option plus winter tyres so I carry a pair of snow socks in case of extreme driving conditions, plus a set of chains in my apartment in Les Arcs in case I'm there in 'beyond extreme' conditions.

Really hate the process of fitting chains, so when I've bought my own I've always opted for a more expensive set which attach to the wheel from the outside rather than requiring grubbing around the back of the wheel to attach the chains to each other.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@rob@rar, quite right. Chains which go round the back of the tyre have a bad habit of hitting critical systems.

separate non-snowchain message follows

@rob@rar, by the way, when are you over? I'm here now to claim residency but planning a few days in Tignes and VT shortly.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
We have driven 5 or 6 vehicles to the Alps and we have had chains for all of them. All but one of them has had winter tyres.
All but two have been 4x4. We have never used any of the chains.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Alastair wrote:
@rob@rar, by the way, when are you over? I'm here now to claim residency but planning a few days in Tignes and VT shortly.
Probably not until Les Arcs opens, 14th or 15th. Are you around that first week or will you be back in the UK for Christmas?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@rob@rar, I'll be around from 14-21st then I'll make a dash back for a family Christmas. Hope to see you soon!
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The funniest attempt I saw of putting snow chains on was in Andorra. A couple of young male Spaniards were in a standard car in Andorra centre trying to move from a parked position by the side of the road down a road which had not been cleared of snow.

They put these snow chains on which go around the back of the tyre, but had not tensioned them properly. (or the snow chains actually did not fit the tyres)

As the car moved the snow chains gradually dislodged, and started to get tangled around the axle of the wheel.

A crowd of people were watching from the pavement. I was going to offer my help, but the language barrier, and the fact that it was two young males with a large crowd, I decided that there must be people more expert than me who could help. (and were just watching and sniggering)

Best way to learn, is to do it yourself.

I kept my snowchains on in the car park behind the sports centre in Pas de la Casa, Andorra, as the steep exit was difficult to get out of.


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Tue 29-10-19 11:34; edited 3 times in total
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Used chains a few times on fwd cars with summer tyres in the distant past (used to have company cars so couldn't change tyres). Kia Sedona with winters we used them once up a very steep incline. When we had an Audi Allroad with winters we never needed chains, and remarkably our current fwd Fiat Qubo has done 3 full seasons in the alps on Kleber Quadraxer all-seasons without ever needing chains, even when the likes of Volvo V90s and Discos/Range Rovers needed them.
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Alastair wrote:
@rob@rar, I'll be around from 14-21st then I'll make a dash back for a family Christmas. Hope to see you soon!
Yes, I'll get in touch in that first week of the season. Fingers crossed for decent snow!
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
I've had to put chains on once in recent years. It was on the way down from VdI to Bourg and the snow was tipping down. It was around 15cm deep on the road and even though we had winters, the Gendarmes said we shouldn't risk it without putting chains on.

The rental car had black alloys (why???) and they got marked by the chains. A quick stop at the big car parts shop at Albertville for a black touch up paint stick and no one was any the wiser when we arrived back at GVA.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
DB wrote:


So who else has had to chain up?


Since 1989
1. 1989 Going to Lengries or somewhere to get my VW Beetle over the hill on the way back - summer tires
2. 1991 Once going to Les Deux Alpes in heavy snow from Bourg in a BMW RWD with summer tires
3. 2003 Going up to Val d'Isere in a Toyota Yaris I in heavy snow, summer tires

I've never chained on winter tires but I did have to reverse my Yaris 1km to get up a steep section of an access road.

If the conditions are really marginal, driving wise, I generally don't bother driving as I would be concerned about other road users either blocking roads or driving like idiots in dangerous vehicles. This limits the number of times I may have needed chains.
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Should have said this in the first post - it would be interesting to know …..

- Over what period have you been driving in or to the mountains (e.g. 10 years)
- Approx number of trips / year
- Approx travelling distance / time (e.g. Resort resident X days per week 20mins each way, travel from UK, Germany X times per year etc)

Do those with 4WD have summer/normal tyres or winter tyres? Do you carry one or two pairs of snowchains?

Anybody got stuck / stranded or had to stay in a hotel etc? - I once couldn't drive any further as the avalance risk in the valleys was so high that they stopped clearing the roads so stayed in a hotel.
Once drove into a ditch at the site of the road in a 4WD with winter tyres (thought the road was wider as the snow was level with the road Embarassed - a local farmer dragged me out with his tractor). Was probably the first time it had been 'offroad'.
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@DB, we live at 1,000m (previous 12 years in Geneva) and our AWD manual says "no chains" (I think to do with the CVT and AWD).

Anyway, in 13 years of being in mountains most weekends and since Feb everyday, I have never felt the need for chains...
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DB wrote:
Should have said this in the first post - it would be interesting to know …..

- Over what period have you been driving in or to the mountains (e.g. 10 years)
- Approx number of trips / year
- Approx travelling distance / time (e.g. Resort resident X days per week 20mins each way, travel from UK, Germany X times per year etc)

Do those with 4WD have summer/normal tyres or winter tyres? Do you carry one or two pairs of snowchains?

Anybody got stuck / stranded or had to stay in a hotel etc? - I once couldn't drive any further as the avalance risk in the valleys was so high that they stopped clearing the roads so stayed in a hotel.
Once drove into a ditch at the site of the road in a 4WD with winter tyres (thought the road was wider as the snow was level with the road Embarassed - a local farmer dragged me out with his tractor). Was probably the first time it had been 'offroad'.


First drove to the Alps maybe 25 years ago. Initially a week per season, now the car spends 4-6 weeks in the Alps, and gets driven during the week rather than parked up except for the journey to and from the Alps.

Never been stuck or stranded, except for one night stuck in Courchevel because an avalanche had blocked the access road. I don't think that chains would have helped with that situation.

I have a 4WD plus winters, carry one pair of snow socks in the car in case of extreme conditions, never used them. Also have one pair of chains kept in my apartment in case of beyond extreme conditions. Never used them, and if it is anticipated to be that bad I have the option to not drive, or make my journey early or late to avoid the worst of the conditions, which is what I did on the New Year's Snowmageddon a few years ago. Was due to drive back to the UK on the Saturday morning of the weekend before New Year. The weather forecast was looking more and more suspect for driving conditions that day, so in the Thursday I decided to leave the resort Friday evening rather than early Saturday morning. As a result I didn't need to use chains and didn't get stuck in the chaos of the following couple of days.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Too many times to count..... the only vehicle I never had to chain up on was the 110 Defender, which seemed able to plough through everything/anything.

To answer your subsequent questions;
- how long - lived/worked permanently in the Alps for 5 years, been driving there frequently for about 20!
- # trips per year - apart from when living there probably about 4/8 weeks a season. (5 years transfer driver)
- distance - depends on resort
- 2/4WD - both, the 4WD only 1 set on the front so you can brake and steer.
- stuck - never, stopped for avalanche blasting not infrequently.

My tips to anyone is know how to use them and put them on before you think you need to.... don't be a tourist halfway up the mountain stuck at the side of the road partly blocking it with your chains out, head torch on, reading the the instructions, tired after a days travelling, in the snow trying to figure them out.......
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
@DB, to answer your questions:

About 30 years
One - several. (Not helpful, I know)
Never measured it. I drive when suits and for long distances when necessary.
Never stranded or in difficulty. Have had to push an Ambulance up the hill which was not adequately equipped.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I did 30,000 mile in the Peugeot Boxer van, most of which was driving between resorts in the Alps and between Scotland and the Alps. That was about 16 years ago. Spending about 1-3 months per annum in the Alps, and maybe one or two return trips between Scotland and the Alps.

Van did not start once in Serre Chevalier. Tried jump starting with other helpful French men. Had to call out the local garagiste, who agreed the van would not start. So he pulled me along the road, and I had to bump start it. This worked.

It is difficult to say I was stuck, or just staying longer than I expected as I was not really on a timetable (not returning for any particular reason)



Stuck here for a few days in La Daille Val d'Isere, or maybe I was just staying longer than expected due to the good weather and snow fall.



Stuck in the free car park in Tignes les Breviers, or maybe I just decided to stay a few more days because the snow was good?

Leaving snow chains on in the car park is useful, as it can be difficult to put them on when there is 3 feet of snow covering the tyres. Also, if you take your handbrake off in order to stop the cable freezing solid, the chains act as a wheel chock to stop the van rolling around easily.



This is me having moved the van into a parking spot which had been cleared by the snow clearers, so that they could clear my spot.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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marcellus wrote:
My tips to anyone is know how to use them and put them on before you think you need to.... don't be a tourist halfway up the mountain stuck at the side of the road partly blocking it with your chains out, head torch on, reading the the instructions, tired after a days travelling, in the snow trying to figure them out.......
Always the best advice. If possible, find an indoor car park or similar you can drive in to so you can fit the chains in the dry, and possibly well lit compared to grubbing around on your knees at the side of the road with a flickering head torch.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Has anyone ever had to put chains on a 4WD / AWD with winter tyres?
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I've had to reverse a couple of times. Setting off with front wheels on hard icy compacted snow on an uphill incline. Slight reversing needed to flatter ground to get going. My car is FWD with full winters.

The trick is once moving uphill, keep going!
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
DB wrote:
Has anyone ever had to put chains on a 4WD / AWD with winter tyres?
No. Worst conditions I've experienced for driving the access road to a resort was a Saturday in December when I was driving to Les Arcs from Meribel. Local police were controlling all traffic at Bourg St Maurice (850m altitude), for access to Les Arcs or heading further up the valley to Tignes, etc. All traffic was stopped and everyone was directed to fit chains or snow socks, although exceptions were made to 4WD fitted with winter tyres, so I was waved through. Drive up to Les Arcs was tricky but manageable, as the road clearance service couldn't keep the road even close to snow free given how fast it was falling.
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DB wrote:
Has anyone ever had to put chains on a 4WD / AWD with winter tyres?


Yes, we had an X Trail with Winters on and used to put them on quite often, mainly very early/later going to/from chalets.

I also had an RS6 which even with winters on was a nightmare in any snow going down hill, going up was an absolute scream as with 500bhp under your right foot you could make it go around/up anything broadly in the right direction even if you were looking out of the side windows as you did and stopping was no problem as lift off and gravity slowed it.........
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(1) 30 seasons
(2) not really the way to measure it. Likely significantly more distance than most, but in BC.
(3) You have to have M&S or winter tyres by law these days.
Never carried or used snow chains, ever. You can buy them, although I've not seen anyone other than trucks/ buses use them.

I've driven most places including ski hills with logging track access.

The only way you're going to get stuck in BC is if you drive badly and end up in the ditch. Otherwise the road's either open or it's not.
If it's not, you need to wait for the plough, unless as stated it's closed for slide risk.

Driving in the Alps is mostly only early or late season for me. I don't have that much experience there but clearly many of the roads are smaller.
BC is more like Finland, where you just drive on snow covered roads all the time so the snow chain thing doesn't really work.
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9 years of a February half term trip each year to Austria, for 8 days per trip, always with winter tyres plus 1-2 trips per season in hire cars. Used chains once - on an access road in Hinterglemm which is at about 35 degrees, where there had been heavy snow which had become compacted, followed by a sudden temperature drop of 10 degrees at dusk which turned the whole thing into crunchy wet snow on top of boilerplate. 6-7 vehicles had tried and failed to get up the hill, so I fitted the chains and made it with no dramas. Ten minutes later the road was ploughed and gritted rolling eyes

I've also occasionally driven in blizzards, and on roads which are entirely white and frozen, or through 10-15cm of fresh snow, on winter tyres and never felt the need for chains.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
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4-5 times driving to El Tarter in Andorra, once to Sierra Nevada in Spain. 4wd, summer tyres. Apartment in ET usually 200m from main road. Never needed chains, which I have, but once was close (had to gun it a bit on an icy patch).
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
In over 40 years of driving to and from the Alps only a handful of times and certainly not for the last 15 years with AWD and winter tyres.
There was an incident with a gutless BMW hire car two seasons ago but that's best forgotten, suffice to say it spent the night outside a local bar!
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Say 20 years annual journey or hire car, say 40 trips. Used them 3 times. Each time on a car with winter tyres. So what's that? A statistical probability of 7.5% of trips, or a 1 in 13 chance. Seems about right. Trouble is, when I've needed them, I've needed them.

3 sets from previous cars in the garage. 1 current set. Buying cheap ones was a false economy for me - If I'd gone for my current, more expensive chainsto begin with, they would have been adjustable enough to fit at least 2 of the 3 previous cars.
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@LaForet, I bought a set of Thule ones last winter that fits both the vehicles we are likely to use for our trips. Sold another set which were unused to another snowHead.
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