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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@James77,
I was working at a skishow in the Barbican many years ago. Peugeot had a stand there with two cars - one small, one big (a 505 - that's how long ago it was!) and there was lots of pretend snow which meant that the cars had chains on them. Come lunchtime I wandered across to the poor salesman and asked why the chains were fitted to the front wheels of the 505. He replied "because it's front wheel drive". I suggested that he take a look underneath the car and then put the chains on the back wheels. . . . .
Bear in mind that most BMWs and Mercs are still rear wheel drive.
Edited to add "saloons/estates rather than SUVs"
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Probably due to their RWD heritage, it was permanent 4wd with a 40/60 split between front and rear. My Kia is only a part time 4wd so chains have to go on the front.
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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?
@DaveD, crit' air stickers are required for quite a few places in France. Some of the places only require them when the pollution levels are high, but winter pollution is not unusual in the Arve Valley, for instance. You will need to drive through one of these zones to get to many of the resorts.

https://www.lez-france.fr/en/french-environmental-zones-zcr.html
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James77 wrote:
@LaForet, What do you mean by front fitting chains? All chains should be fitted to front wheels even on a 4x4, do you mean side fitting chains?

I have Polaire grip and I hope I get to use them in the alps this winter!

Confusion. I don't mean fitted to the front wheels - I meant they fit onto the front of the wheel. They only have components on the front of the wheel and the tread - there are no chain elements wrapped around the interior side of the tyre (between the tyre and the suspension). Below: My Spike Spider Easy - what you see is all there is. There's no chain bits on the other side of the tyre.


These sort of 'front-fitting' chains are designed for cars that (a) have insufficient clearance behind the wheel for conventional chains to rotate and/or (b) where you want to be able to fit them quickly (<2 mins per wheel). A lot of UK performance cars and SUVs can't carry conventional chains on their wheels because of (a) above. So an owner has to either use these more expensive, front-fitting chains, or fit narrower wheels that can take conventional chains. As I said, these are expensive, but they seem to fit a far wider range of wheel/tyre sizes than the cheaper conventional chains I've owned previously - as it happens, these would have fitted the last 3 cars I've owned (caveat: but this isn't guaranteed).

My previous car was a BMW xDrive and the explicit BMW directive was to fit chains to the rear wheels only. This was because the xDrive is designed to send power predominantly to the rear wheels, even when all four wheels are being powered. My understanding is that this is true for a lot of AWD/4x4 cars and SUVs, but not all - the Owners Manual will clarify.


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Tue 8-09-20 23:38; edited 12 times in total
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@rachelharrisonsmith, Following your link, the restrictions in the Arve valley only seem to apply to trucks.
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Yes, initially the Crit'Air scheme was quite limited and unless you planned to drive through Paris or a few other cities (or a diversion on your planned route might take you through them), it was unlikely you'd need one. However, the scheme keeps getting extended. Getting a sticker is a reg.-specific one-off and only costs around €4.50, and with us going over to France in the summer as well, my thinking was it was a minor effort and cost for a possibly significant convenience, so I got one. Beware - if you do a search, there are sites which charge you for acting as intermediary: go to the official French Govt website (I think it's https://certificat-air.gouv.fr/en/demande-ext/cgu but you need to double-check).

The registration site above is in English. You need a scanned copy of your V5C but it can't be more than 400K (which I found tricky to get under), so sort this out before you start.


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Thu 10-09-20 10:42; edited 1 time in total
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Warning triangle is a legal requirement in France.
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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!
List of decent service stations and rest areas as there is tremendous variation in quality, cleanliness and retail/catering outlets.
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
List of decent service stations and rest areas as there is tremendous variation in quality, cleanliness and retail/catering outlets.
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As an aside, and in no means questioning the legitimacy of carrying snow chains, but seasonnaires and locals excluded, when did anyone actually use their chains in anger in France?

We've been driving a few years now, and of all the people we've met who also drive, I don't think I can recall anyone ever saying they have used them.
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James77 wrote:
@LaForet, What do you mean by front fitting chains? All chains should be fitted to front wheels even on a 4x4, do you mean side fitting chains?

I have Polaire grip and I hope I get to use them in the alps this winter!

Not on rear wheel drive cars. Laughing
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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.
@AndreSilva, Quite right I'd forgotten about RWD. Forgotten about RWD as I've had AWD for years now.
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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
@Richard_Sideways, Yes - once - driving out of Alpe d'Huez in Snowmageddon on Saturday changeover at end of December, 4 maybe 5 winters ago - traffic carnage as those without chains were stuck and huge queues in and out of the Alpes
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Richard_Sideways wrote:
As an aside, and in no means questioning the legitimacy of carrying snow chains, but seasonnaires and locals excluded, when did anyone actually use their chains in anger in France? We've been driving a few years now, and of all the people we've met who also drive, I don't think I can recall anyone ever saying they have used them.

This has come up on another thread here and as a thread on the car Owner's Forum I'm a member of and the answers have been - it varies. Some people have never used chains in 20 years of driving to the Alps, others have used them every other year. In my case the average has been once every 7 years. For my brother-in-law and sister-in-law it's been about once every 5 years.

This is the perennial debate: probability vs cost vs consequences - How likely am I to need them? How much should I spend? What's the consequence of not having them or only having cheap ones? If I change my car every 3-4 years and each car needs new chains, then it's a lot of money wasted; Can't I just leave it until I'm approaching the resort, or about to depart home, then buy some if I need them? etc.

My principal recommendation is before anything else, to check in your Owners Manual, or with your garage, to see whether your particular model can even take snow chains at all. It's quite surprising how many UK models of cars and SUVs are fitted with low-profile wheels and tyres that can't take conventional snow chains.


Last edited by You know it makes sense. on Thu 10-09-20 12:23; edited 3 times in total
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@Richard_Sideways, There was a Saturday two winters ago when chains were needed if you didn't have winter tyres. I made the mistake of needing to go shopping that day, would guess that the queue was back to the autoroute in the valley.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

As an aside, and in no means questioning the legitimacy of carrying snow chains, but seasonnaires and locals excluded, when did anyone actually use their chains in anger in France?

Yes, twice in roughly 30 trips. Both times were in the early hours of the morning so needed fitting in the dark at the bottom of the road to Les Arcs, which was no problem. At least one of these times was an April Easter. Oddly, I found removing the chains a much more unpleasant task. Fitting them when on snow is one thing, but taking them off in slush is an order of magnitude more unpleasant and they get stuck behind the wheel.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
LaForet wrote:
@Layne It never occurred to me until one of the threads on a car owner's forum had postings by people who'd had to hang around for a day or two to get a replacement winter while en route to/from The Alps.

Plus there's the established principle, statistically 100% proven, that if you make provision for something like this, then it'll never happen. Whereas if it's pointed out to you as a risk and you don't make provision, it's bound to happen Madeye-Smiley

You've cursed me you bstard Happy

Actually we have a spare - so I would do what pam said.
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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?
johnE wrote:
Quote:

As an aside, and in no means questioning the legitimacy of carrying snow chains, but seasonnaires and locals excluded, when did anyone actually use their chains in anger in France?

Yes, twice in roughly 30 trips. Both times were in the early hours of the morning so needed fitting in the dark at the bottom of the road to Les Arcs, which was no problem. At least one of these times was an April Easter. Oddly, I found removing the chains a much more unpleasant task. Fitting them when on snow is one thing, but taking them off in slush is an order of magnitude more unpleasant and they get stuck behind the wheel.


Put a brightly coloured zip tie on the outer facing chain that equates to the inner cable connection that you usually fit with it at top position, stop wheel in "correct" orientation and they come off easily as you can open all the links, drop them onto the ground and just drive off the chains then pick them up Very Happy
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@johnE,
Don't fit them in the dark on a snow covered road - go to Super U's filling station and fit them under the canopy!
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@Nemisis, nice idea
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Certainly I trashed a tyre last year and had to wait a few days for delivery and fitting. That was a Michelin Crossclimate in a common size. If I'd have driven to Grenoble on the space saver spare I suspect I'd have got it done much quicker.

Another visitor here trashed an enormous, expensive tyre for a BMW. Without the help of a friend, a fluent french speaker, he would never have found one.

AA are very good in situations like that. They have an office in Lyon with a french mechanic on hand to check things out.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
I had a puncture between Bourg and Tignes. when I called into to get it repaired att he tyre shop in Bourg the technician spoke english then while I had a coffee in town repaired the tyre. It cost 10 euros. I have to say the standard of service and cost were much better than I have had in the UK
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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!
Also having run-flat tires helps.
As my car has no space for spare wheel, I got run-flat for both summer and winter tires.
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Quote:

I don't think I can recall anyone ever saying they have used them.

I used chains fairly frequently when spending a long time in the mountains each winter. Sometimes only for a short bit of steep drive up to my covered garage, which necessitated an accurate 90 degree turn into the garage, from a standing - uphill - start (because of having to fumble with remote to open the garage door). Also used them after big snow storms - it's a myth that the roads are always cleared. On minor roads, in heavy snow, drifts can build up quicker than the snowploughs clear them and they don't plough all night. Also twice required by police to put them on - rightly so. Once because a truck had skidded and was taking up too much of the narrowish road to pass on the carriageway - and the verge was rough and snowy, so they insisted everyone put chains on. That was one of the major Snowmageddon days. And I had four good snow tyres. I've also had a major inconvenience when visitor to my apartment had puncture on a hired car with no proper spare. Had to go out in my car to rescue them, spend a lot of time on the phone to the hire place at Geneva Airport, phone a local garage and arrange to meet the guy there next day to have car TOWED to a valley garage, and then take someone back down next day to pick up the car - with TWO new tyres because they didn't have an exact match. Very expensive, very inconvenient, wasted a lot of ski time. Ultimately got the money back but only because when I hired the car, for my son and family, I'd paid extra to insure the tyres.
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I’ve done 15+ seasons in Chamonix, Verbier, and Aosta. I have a four wheel drive Passat with snow tyres and have never needed to put on chains!
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
In 30 years, probably 40-50 times driving we've had to put chains on four times.
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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.
We’ve been driving out since 1992. Had winter tyres since about 1998. Winter tyres and (soft) 4WD since 2013. Fitted chains once between 1998 and 2013, never fitted them since 2013.

If the current car wouldn’t cope without chains (Octavia Scout) I really wouldn’t want to be on the roads at all.
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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
@rjs, perhaps you looked at only one area (the Arve Valley rules apply to trucks), but the various environmental zones don't all have the same rules. As @LaForet points out, the scheme is constantly being extended and it's easy to apply for one.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
DJL wrote:
We’ve been driving out since 1992. Had winter tyres since about 1998. Winter tyres and (soft) 4WD since 2013. Fitted chains once between 1998 and 2013, never fitted them since 2013.

If the current car wouldn’t cope without chains (Octavia Scout) I really wouldn’t want to be on the roads at all.


I understand where you are coming from but I dont think 4x4s even would have made it out of Madonna last year ..it put down 1.5 mtres down overnight and still snowing when we had to leave on the saturday morning ,.. you have to go up a steep hill to get out....the first time I had used chains in 8 years..I just like to have the insurance of having them
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@DaveD, quite agree, winter tyres and 4x4 won’t cope with everything.

After 1.5m I think I’d be staying put and waiting for the roads to be ploughed
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
DJL wrote:
@DaveD, quite agree, winter tyres and 4x4 won’t cope with everything.

After 1.5m I think I’d be staying put and waiting for the roads to be ploughed


There is a limit - for 4x4 to work the wheels actually have to be touching the ground for starters (discovered this to my cost when grounding a FWD with snow tyres on a snowplough berm exiting a car park once)- fortunately some other people were around to help me push it off. The other lesson there was that possibly waiting for ploughing of the main road is not what you want to make a getaway.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I have a suspicion that there's actually a counter-intuitive factor working here as well: namely that people who spend the season or live in a resort are less likely to use chains than ski holiday visitors. Perhaps if you're a local, you can read the conditions, and will often have a choice to simply not venture out until things have improved. Whereas holiday visitors are committed to traveling on their arrival/departure day, come what may, and have no choice but to venture out, however bad the conditions are. This would tend to skew the feedback. But who knows?
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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?
Quote:

people who spend the season or live in a resort are less likely to use chains than ski holiday visitors

There's a lot in this. I spent a lot of time in the mountains but I'm inherently cautious and never had any problem with chains - I could put them on in a very few minutes. So if in doubt, I did so, rather than risk getting stuck and becoming one of those vehicles which everybody curses. The 5km road I used most frequently, between my apartment and Les Saisies village, had some steep gradients and just about NOWHERE suitable to stop and put chains on without causing max inconvenience to everyone else. So I used chains at least once most years. On one occasion when I'd unloaded everything from the car to make room for family ski equipment and toboggans an unexpected snowfall meant I had to ditch the car half way up the road to the apartment, escort two tired kids up, in a blizzard, then leave them alone with mugs of hot chocolate when I trekked back down to the car (by now not the only one stuck in deepening snow), put the chains on and drive up to the garage. Exhausting, and I didn't make that mistake again.
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LaForet wrote:
I have a suspicion that there's actually a counter-intuitive factor working here as well: namely that people who spend the season or live in a resort are less likely to use chains than ski holiday visitors. Perhaps if you're a local, you can read the conditions, and will often have a choice to simply not venture out until things have improved. Whereas holiday visitors are committed to traveling on their arrival/departure day, come what may, and have no choice but to venture out, however bad the conditions are. This would tend to skew the feedback. But who knows?


Yes indeed, plus those that drive regularly on compacted snow and ice know how to suit their driving to the conditions...
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
LaForet wrote:
...Perhaps if you're a local, you can read the conditions, and will often have a choice to simply not venture out until things have improved. Whereas holiday visitors are committed to traveling on their arrival/departure day, come what may, and have no choice but to venture out, however bad the conditions are. This would tend to skew the feedback. But who knows?


That's very true about living in a "resort", if I know it's going to dump I make sure that I'm not going to be venturing too far, and if it's a transfer day you just do not want to be on the roads, FULL STOP as serious grid-lock is a very real possibility.

And if it's going to dump I move my van to a lower car park where I know the Marie's snow plough clears the driveway for if I leave it where I live the snow clearing Co turn up when they want to and I can't risk missing first lifts having to dig the van out!!!

And that is a tip, if you park on the roadside and it dumps, clear the snow off and around your car within the day, DO not leave it till you leave as by then your car will be encrusted in a tomb of snow, especially so if the snow-plough adds another 50cm of snow from the road around your car!

Last season the worst conditions we encountered were black ice with a couple of cms on snow on top beginning of December, and that can happen as wet roads due to rain freeze with a freak cold front and then snow, a friend who runs the Gite du Lautaret just down from the Col, so is reasonably adept at handling conditions wrote his car off that night!
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The worse conditions I have ever encountered were actually in Sheffield ..many years ago...It snowed wet snow at about 6pm ..put about 2"down... then rained very briefly ...then froze solid.... all over was sheet ice ........... just in time for rush hour so no gritters could get out ...standing on it was difficult never mind driving ..
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This was us the day before we left Flaine car park, after digging and clearing drove over to another space that had just been vacated. I didn’t have to use chains but thought I might have to just to get Up the slope to the road.
Secretly a bit disappointed as I spent a small fortune on them but the winter tyres were fine.
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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!
Milk frother for coffee,

Car only has LED's so no spares possible. No spare wheel either, and I've never taken a petrol can. Room to buy wine and champers for the week in resort, as well as plenty on return. Next year we are taking the luggage for 2 others, they will fly, we will drive and take our time.
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endoman wrote:
Milk frother for coffee

Shocked Shocked
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LaForet wrote:
... go to the official French Govt website (I think it's https://certificat-air.gouv.fr/en/demande-ext/cgu but you need to double-check).
Thanks for the link, I think I should probably get one of these things now.
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