Mountain resorts are a popular holiday destination for those who love snow sports and cottage breaks throughout the winter. But how confident are you about driving there on your own four wheels? Here, car dealers Lookers plc provide top tips for driving on snow-clad mountains so that everyone can enjoy a safe, stress-free winter road trip.
Winterproof your car
Whether you plan to take your own vehicle up the mountain, or hire one from a local vehicle hire, it is vital that you make sure the vehicle is ready to tackle the winter weather. You need to make sure your tyres have the recommended winter tread depth of at least 3mm and are properly inflated. It is also crucial that your brake and transmission fluids are full – this will help prevent overheating from more frequent braking.
It is vital that your car is stocked with all the essentials that can help you get out of a pickle on the roads. An ice scraper, hand-held shovel and flashlights are crucial for keeping you safe on the road. It is also a good idea to bring a car charger for your mobile in case you need to call for help. Make sure your friends and family know where you’re heading and your rough arrival and departure times so they can flag up any potential emergencies.
Mountain driving is very different to the roads you experience at home – when faced with mountain walls and cliffs, your first reaction may be to hug the centre line. Don’t. If you come across another car, you may feel the need to over-correct. This is more hazardous than staying in your lane in the first place. At night it’s also essential to dim your high beams as soon as you meet another vehicle – impairing a driver’s vision on mountain roads can be very dangerous.
Mountain roads are very much up and down – and for safe driving it is vital that you make the most of gearshifts. When going down mountain roads, prioritise downshifting over braking to hold your speed. As a general rule, you shouldn’t go down a hill any faster than you can go up it. Likewise, you’ll need to downshift on steep upgrades to maintain control of the vehicle.
Who gets right of way?
You will often find that some stretches of road can be too narrow for two cars to drive – in this instance, it is important to let the car driving uphill to go first. Cars are more at risk of stalling uphill – not least because standard horsepower is reduced at higher elevations. Once they’ve safely made it up the hill, it will be safer for you to proceed and you’ll also have more time to downshift where necessary.
Slow speeds whilst off piste
Driving off piste is not as desirable as skiing off piste – and it can be dangerous, no matter how accustomed you are to going off piste on the ski slopes. Speeding down unpaved roads is inadvisable. Unpaved surfaces offer less traction than paved roads, so slow down and take wider turns than usual around bends.
Be aware that driving on mountainous roads can be more exhausting and take more time than on standard roads. It is important to plan ahead by checking your GPS or maps and the road conditions for your planned route. Take frequent breaks so you can relax and refocus when necessary. And drink lots of water. At higher elevations, poor hydration can impact your alertness.
Enjoy the landscape
This is the best bit – after all that’s what they’re there for. The mountains offer some stunning vistas which can serve as a backdrop to photos that will last a lifetime. Just make sure you pull over at designated photo stops. Holding up traffic on the mountain won’t help you make friends with your fellow road trippers.