As the bank holiday approaches and temperatures warms, many Europeans will begin planning for their Easter holidays. As there is an increase in dangerous driving conditions in mountainous regions, getting to your destination safely should also be a priority in planning your Easter get-away.
Whether it's a ski trip in the Alpine region or a trip down to the sunnier coasts of Italy or Spain, many motorists will be crossing mountainous alpine terrain on their way to their destination. Making sure that you are adequately prepared to deal with any possible unexpected road and weather conditions is important.
Preparing the car.
Tyres - during your holiday your car should be fitted with winter tyres. Excellent performance at low temperatures, on wet, slush, snow and ice are what winter tyres are designed for.
Check, check, check! Check the belts, hoses and fluid levels before departure. It is wise to keep an extra container of antifreeze and windshield washer fluid in your car.
Don't get stuck. If you will be entering regions with extreme winter conditions or are planning to cross high mountain passes, make sure that you have snow chains onboard.
Winter equipment. Keep a snowbrush and ice scraper in the car. Have a second scraper handy as they break easily when you’re dealing with ice. A small shovel may be helpful if you are expecting lots of snow.
Be ready. Keep vital emergency gear in the car. A warm blanket, sufficient water and food, a flashlight and additional warm clothing can help you get through an emergency breakdown, a night stranded in a storm or hours in a traffic jam.
Winterise your car. Make sure your car is in tip-top condition: that all windows inside and out are clean, that all lights work, and that the number plate is clearly visible.
Are you ready?
Know the weather. The weather report is your most vital ally during mountainous drives. Think about postponing your journey if you expect heavy snowstorms and icy temperatures. Expect sudden black ice even at temperatures above 0 C degrees.
Keep warm. It may sound obvious; yet we often sin against the most common rules. Always wear a hat once outside in extremely cold temperatures, since you can lose up to sixty percent of your body heat through your head.
Charge your phone. Always travel with a fully charged mobile phone.
Depart well rested and ready. Make sure you are well rested when departing for your holiday. Driving in wintery conditions is taxing. Take frequent rest stops (every 2 hours) and don't put the car's heating too high.
Adapt your driving behaviour! Don't forget that mountainous terrain and alpine climates also require you to adapt your driving style. Keep in mind the decreased visibility, longer stopping distances and changing road conditions.
Tips for fuel - efficient driving in the snow. Our driving habits have a big impact on fuel consumption - especially at low temperatures. Fuel consumption soars in cold weather - sometimes by as much as 50 %. That's hard on your pocket and on the environment. HiQ recommends these steps to help curb excessive fuel consumption this winter.
Be kind to your car. Maintaining your car's engine properly helps it run efficiently. Make sure you have a winter check-up with your car.
Clean off snow and ice. Clear all snow and ice off your vehicle before setting off. This will help minimize the use of energy hungry accessories such as defrosters and heaters, remove aerodynamic drag and reduce weight.
Don't idle. Idling the car to warm it up wastes energy. Drive off immediately and smoothly - don't rev up the engine during the first few kilometers to warm up the engine and all the other moving parts of a vehicle.
Check your tyre pressures. The wrong tyre pressure not only affects a car's overall driving performance, the tyres' grip and their mileage, it can also increase rolling resistance and thus fuel consumption. Check the pressure of your tyres regularly, at least every 2 weeks, to make sure they are properly inflated.
Accelerate slowly. Accelerate slowly for optimum fuel economy. If you accelerate aggressively, you will waste fuel.
Remove roof rack when not needed. Roof racks and ski boxes cause extra wind resistance, which thus increases fuel consumption.
Watch your speed. Slowing down not only helps keep you driving safely in challenging alpine weather, it also helps save fuel. Also, maintain a constant speed. Unnecessary acceleration and braking increases fuel consumption significantly.
Winter tyres - The technology bit.
There are a few key technology differences that allow winter tyres to perform better in cold weather conditions; these are the types and composition of tread compounds, the special sipe technologies and the distinctive tread designs.
The softer and more flexible polymer compounds used in winter tyres allow these tyres to perform much better at lower temperatures and on cold road surfaces. The latest generation of silica-tread rubber stays flexible even at very low temperatures.
Sipes are the small slits within a winter tyre's tread pattern, they provide edges that literally bite into the snow and ice for strong grip and traction. Goodyear's 3D BIS Sipe Technology is industry leading and ptimized sipe density while improving steering and handling on dry and wet winter roads, as well as improving dry braking performance for those crisp cold days.
A winter tyre's tread pattern is optimized to disperse slush and water as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is clear by the amount of grooves you can see on the tread surface.
In many parts of mainland Europe it is common, and in some cases a legal requirement, for drivers to fit winter tyres during the early months. It is important to check this area of legislation in each country that you are planning on driving through. If not, you run the risk of a fine and may be prevented from completing your journey.
Our top Ski Destinations for the best chance of snow this Easter:
• Val Thorens, France
• Tignes, France
• Riksgransen, Sweden
• Are, Sweden
• Zermatt, Switzerland
• Saas Feed, Switzerland
• Livigno, Italy