Published the 29 November 2018
In Val Thorens, we take good care of you by creating holidays for you that are 100% Serenity! To ensure we’re right alongside you from the get-go, helping you to feel as though you’re on holiday as soon as you leave home, here are a few tips for getting here with complete peace of mind (and safely!), whatever conditions are like on the road!
Marine, a driving instructor on the Alain Prost ice-driving track, shares her advice and top tips for stress-free driving:
1) Use special equipment
Walking in the snow without special boots (by which we mean thick tread soles) makes an obstacle course of even the lowest gradient slope. It’s exactly the same for your car! When the temperature drops below 7°C, you need to swap your summer tyres for winter tyres. The latter are differently shaped and made from different material: the rubber has better grip at low temperatures, and the tyre treads are designed to release more water/snow and also to act as “crampons” on icy surfaces.
Our expert Marine advises you to fit 4 winter tyres, to ensure your vehicle remains balanced. If you brake when you’ve only fitted the front two tyres, you risk spinning your vehicle!
Snow chains or ‘socks’, can be a great help in particularly snowy situations. Okay, we’ll admit it, even the hardiest mountain dwellers have had to fit chains at least once in order to get up the mountain, not that they’ll ever tell you that…
When packing the car, don’t leave your snow chains at the bottom of the boot, under a mountain of luggage. Keep them in the passenger compartment, under a chair or on top of a pile of suitcases: believe us, when a snow storm is raging, you’ll thank yourself for not having to unload the back of the car to find them! ;)
Also consider having a small torch handy, which will come in very useful if you have to fit your snow chains in the dark of night !
2) Posture :
To drive properly, first of all you need to be sitting properly! Sit correctly at the back of your seat, with your back straight and your left foot positioned close to the tyres so that you can sense the signals your car is sending you, such as how well the wheels are gripping.
Marine advises you to place your hands at “quarter past nine” on the steering wheel : that’s the position in which you’ll best feel the movement of the steering column, to help control the car’s direction.
Once you’re sitting correctly, you’re ready to tackle the road !
3) Visibility :
This plays an important part in taking corners well. It’s not enough to just look straight ahead, you also have to follow the bends in the road with your eyes. And that’s especially true with very tight corners !
Also, remember that you’re always going to come across unexpected obstacles (stopped cars, piles of snow…), so be ready and try to give yourself as much visibility into the distance as possible.
Visibility also involves having a properly cleaned windscreen that’s cleared of all snow. A liquid windscreen wash especially for very low temperatures won’t freeze and will be more efficient. Make sure you clear the headlights properly of snow, which isn’t only a good way to improve your visibility, but also a good way to ensure you’re seen by other drivers.
If your car has been parked outside, remember to clear the roof of snow: the first time you brake, all the snow you’re carrying could slide onto your windscreen and obstruct your view. Besides that, it’s also a legal obligation: piles of snow may be considered a “poorly managed load” and may cause you to incur a fine. It’s also dangerous for vehicles behind you, as a block of snow (and even ice) could fall off the roof at any moment and end up on their windscreen.
4) Speed and braking:
Your car is ready, the driver is correctly seated: let’s go! Not everybody can be Alain Prost, so the key to tackling snowy or icy roads properly is to lower your speed. Generally, it’s recommended to drive 30 kilometres per hour under the speed limit and not to exceed 20 kilometres per hour with snow chains on. When you’re on the road, you have to take into account all the various criteria for visibility and traffic and adapt your speed accordingly.
Right, driving in a straight line, everything’s fine… But then, a turn comes! On the way up and down the mountain, reduce your speed gradually. Driving on snow takes a Zen attitude: so, go gently and change speed calmly without creating any jolting movements.
- Going downhill: release the accelerator very gently and let your car drop speed gradually.
- Going uphill: unless it’s an emergency, you should never brake hard. You have to anticipate turns and other obstacles to start braking as you go uphill: gently “pump” the brake and use engine braking as much as possible to avoid any risk of the wheels seizing up.
Driving on snow lengthens any distance, so anticipation and taking things gently will be the keys to a successful journey !
Don’t forget, the secret to an incident-free journey is serenity. Easier said than done, but you’ll see, keeping a cool head and your mind clear will help you to master the specific requirements of driving on snow. Think about taking breaks too, while we’re busy preparing you an unforgettable stay in Val Thorens
Let’s go, see you soon !