Published the 11 February 2014
Are you ready for your winter sports break but still undecided about how best to equip your vehicle? Are you going to have winter tyres fitted? Will snow chains suffice? Follow our advice for a hassle-free holiday.
In France, the use of winter tyres (sometimes wrongly referred to as "snow tyres") is not a legal requirement, even if the introduction of such a law is a regular subject of debate, as it was last winter following a proposal by MP Pierre Morel-A-L'Huissier. You are only obliged to use snow tyres in areas where a B26 road sign is displayed. If you do not adapt your vehicle to suit weather conditions in an area displaying the B26 road sign, you will incur a second class fine of 35€, which may be reduced on prompt payment.
You should also be aware that if you require the services of a roadside breakdown vehicle in a B26 area and your vehicle is not fitted with the required equipment, you will be held personally responsible for the recovery cost.
Winter tyres specifics
Winter tyres display an M+S (Mud+Snow) logo which indicates that they are suitable for driving on snow and mud. However, the logo alone is not enough. It has to be accompanied by a snowflake and mountain top symbol, which guarantees that the tyres can cope with all kinds of road surfaces in wintertime.
Because of the way they are made, the rubber on winter tyres is softer than that on summer tyres, which stops tyres from hardening when the temperature drops below 7° C.
Winter tyres also have very deep tread and several grooves for better clearance of mud and snow.
Because of the way they are designed and the special composition of their rubber, winter tyres provide stronger grip on the road in dry as well as in wet weather conditions. The tyres easily clear away the water, mud and snow, which reduces the risk of losing control by aquaplaning for example. Finally, they also reduce breaking distances on snow and ice, which is essential for your safety.
Winter tyres cost a small amount more than summer tyres, but they are a solid long-term investment because they help to extend the lifespan of your summer tyres.
Alternatives to winter tyres
If you live in a region where the temperature rarely drops below 7° C, you may decide not to use winter tyres and instead to use chains or snow socks when you visit the mountains.
Made of polyester fibre, snow socks have the advantage of taking only a few minutes to fit and letting you drive over 50 km/hr. on roads with light snow cover. You can buy snow socks for between 40€ and 50€ in shops.
Chains are often trickier to fit, even if recent models are much easier to install than they used to be. They are highly efficient in the mountains in very snowy areas, but are more suited to short distances and do not let you exceed 30 km/hr. Expect to pay at least 30€ for a pair of snow chains.
Chains and socks only let you drive on snow, unlike winter tyres, which are multi-use. You are strongly advised against driving on dry roads using snow chains or socks. Instead make sure that your winter weather equipment conforms to B26 standards and fits the size of your tyres properly.