Top Tips To Safe Snowy Mountains Driving
Before you leave...
- Ensure there is enough anti-freeze in your engine radiator. You’ll need to match the amount of anti-freeze to the capacity of the coolant system. If this isn’t done & the coolant freezes, the engine block and radiator may crack. Most modern cars use coolant with wide temperature capabilities. Check with your service provider if special coolant is needed.
- Ensure you have alpine (winter) diesel in the tank, if your car uses diesel.
- Snow chains are used in snowy conditions to give extra traction. Find out what snow chains you will need for your car.
About snow chains
All 2-wheel drive (2WD) vehicles entering Kosciuszko National Park between the June and October long weekends must carry snow chains. Chains must be fitted to the driving tyres of a 2WD car. Please refer to owner's manual to confirm if your car is FWD (front wheel drive) or RWD (rear wheel drive).
You must fit snow chains to your vehicle if prompted by park signs, park rangers, police or RMS staff. There are designated chain fitting bays along the main roads in the National Park, where you can fit or remove chains safely.
Although 4-Wheel Drive (4WD) and All-Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicles don’t require chains, we still recommend carrying them. They may be needed in extreme weather conditions.
When you hire chains from The Shed Ski Hire:
- our online booking form will show you how to read your vehicle's tyre size. Simply copy the numbers in the right sequence onto the booking form. (If you're not sure, or if you plan to hire a car and don't know its tyre size: no problem. We can work it all out at pickup time.) Although we take tyre size information online, we will re-measure all equipment at pickup time. You can change the selection of snow chains then if needed.
- we'll show you how to fit the snow chains correctly. Please ensure you are competent with fitting chains before you leave the store to your vehicle.
You don't always need to use snow chains, but it's vital that you know how. Get confident with putting chains on/off before you need them. You might be cold & tired then, or driving in bad weather. Far better to learn how to fit chains while in the comfort of our warm, friendly store.
Other snow chain tips
If you're staying overnight where moderate/heavy snow is forecast, and you need to drive out next day: you can put the snow chains on the ground/snow at night and roll the wheels onto them. You won't have the hassle of trying to put chains on in the morning after a night full of snow!
Tyre pressure should be 25 kpa higher when using chains. Tyre manufacturers recommend that cars with radial tyres shouldn’t travel >40 km/h when fitted with chains. Stop and check the tension of the chains after 200m.
En route to the snow
Every year, lots of families take their holidays at the snow. If you're driving from Sydney, it usually takes up to 6 hours - which can be an eternity when you've got excited kids in the back. To keep them happy, keep yourself sane and avoid distractions that can lead to accidents, take along some children's books on CD or ipod. Harry Potter works well, but it depends on what your children like.
You'll find “Driver Reviver” stops (roadside canteens) offering tea/coffee and refreshments during the snow season at Lake George, Tuggeranong and Bredbo.
Stop en route to the ski fields, go for a walk, get a cuppa. You'll stay more alert for the drive. You'll also arrive less stiff and more energetic, ready for a full day of fun at the snow.
Sometimes travellers forget or lose their mobile phone chargers. Most are driving into a harsh environment that they're unfamiliar with, and conditions which can become dangerous if the car breaks down. It's important to have a charged phone at the ready. If you're without a charger & can't buy a replacement locally: Driver Reviver stations, hotels and other places frequented by tourists might have chargers in their “lost and found” that you might use.
Mobile reception is not 100% in all places for all phone services. Check your service's area of coverage. Mountainous terrain creates black spots; don't be surprised if reception is intermittent or if you have only 1or 2 bars at times, as you drive through the Kosciuszko National Park.
Get your Parks Pass
You need a vehicle pass to drive in Kosciuszko National Park, where the ski resorts are located. Find out about day, multi-day and annual passes and how to get one here.
At the snow
Parking: it is important to park only in designated parking areas and follow the directions of parking attendants. It’s better than finding your car damaged at the end of the day by snow clearing vehicles.
Don’t apply the handbrake! Moisture can freeze cables and brake linings. Instead, chock the wheels. Don’t use rocks; they may damage the snow clearing machines.
Leave the car in gear with the front wheels turned away from the slope. Remove wheel chocks from the parking area when you leave.
Protect your wipers: if you’re parking for an extended period, lift wipers off your windscreen or place them in a plastic bag so they won’t stick to the glass.
Even if snow chains were not required when you entered the area, will you need them later in the day? If so, you can drive onto them when you park. It'll be easier than fitting the chains after the weather has deteriorated.
Driving in snow & ice
Snow ploughs and snow clearing equipment operate regularly near resorts, but there will still be some snow on the road after they go through. Road conditions change during the day, as passing traffic melts snow, temperatures rise & fall, and sections of road fall into shadow and re-freeze.
Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the accelerator slowly is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don't try to get moving - or to slow down - in a hurry. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
Drive slowly: everything takes longer on snowy roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning - nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Icy patches on the road might not be visible - they could be black ice, or obscured by a thin layer of snow. Give yourself time to manoeuvre by driving slowly.
Keep a safe distance: increase the usual following distance of 3-4 seconds to 8-10 seconds in icy conditions.
Whether you have anti-lock brakes or not, the best way to stop is 'threshold braking': keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
Don't stop if you can avoid it. There's a big difference in trying to start from a standstill, vs speeding up while still rolling. If you can safely keep your car's wheels rolling until traffic clears, do so.
Don't power up hills. Too much accelerator on snow-covered roads just spins your wheels. Try to get momentum before you reach the hill; let that momentum carry you to the top. As you reach the crest, reduce speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
When you leave the snow
Warm the engine for a few minutes before driving off. When hopping back into your car after a day of skiing and snowboarding it's understandable to try to warm up quickly by turning the heat on full blast. But it's best if you don't turn the temperature up straight away - let the engine heat up first.
Clear all glass and mirrors of ice before attempting to drive. Use the vehicle’s heater and fan in conjunction with the air conditioner.
Stay in the loop
Mountain weather and snow conditions can change rapidly. It's important to stay up-to-date with the latest weather and traffic reports, and also ski resort news: eg sometimes ski lifts might be closed due to severe winds.
- Visit Live Traffic NSW or call 132 701 for traffic delays/road closures
- For weather info: http://www.bom.gov.au/nsw/forecasts/snowy.shtml. Also check out these websites: https://ski.com.au https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/visit-a-park/parks/kosciuszko-national-park
- Radio stations give regular weather and traffic reports:
- Eagle FM: 93.5 FM Goulburn
- Radio 2GN: 1368 AM Goulburn
- SnowFM: 97.7 FM Cooma, 94.7 FM Jindabyne, 92.9 FM Thredbo, 101.9 FM Perisher
- Radio 2XL: 918 AM Cooma, 96.3 FM Jindabyne, 92.1 FM Thredbo, 98.7 FM Perisher
- Visitors' Centres:
- Cooma Visitor Centre, 119 Sharp Street, Cooma: P 1800 636 525, W https://visitcooma.com.au
- Snowy Visitor Centre, Kosciuszko Road, Jindabyne: P 6450 5600 W https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/things-to-do/visitor-centres/snowy-region-visitor-centre
- Goulburn Visitor Centre, 201 Sloane Street, Goulburn: P 4823 4492, 1800 353 646 W https://www.goulburnaustralia.com.au/
Planning a night out in Jindabyne?
There's more to the ski season and Jindabyne than snow. Once darkness comes and the skis and snowboards are put away for the next day, many people like to sample the local night life or enjoy a pub meal.
The “Brain Bus” service operates from 11pm to 5am on Wednesday, Friday & Saturday nights throughout July, August and September. It picks up passengers from pubs and clubs in Jindabyne, and drops them off within the Jindabyne township, at the Sport & Recreation Centre and The Station Resort. Your hotel will be able to tell you more.
If you chose to drive and you've had a few drinks, do you need to check your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) before you get behind the wheel? Free breath test machines are at the Brumby Bar, Lake Jindabyne Hotel, Station Resort and the Banjo Patterson Inn. Remember that your BAC can continue to rise up to an hour after your last drink.
- Intoxication, fatigue and complex activities such as driving and snow sports don't mix.
- Watch for free voluntary breath testing in pubs and clubs.
- Check your BAC on the morning after a big night out.