Do you drive to the snow? Win a $100 petrol voucher

Snows Best has all the driving tips you need this winter and a $100 coles express shell petrol voucher for one lucky reader.

Driving to and in the snow can suck or it can be a buzz. It all depends on how you prepare.

Whether you ski in Australia or New Zealand this southern winter you’re going to need to drive to get to the slopes unless you have a private plane and your pilot sets the GPS to Hotham’s airport and your chauffeur whips you up the mountain.  But then you wouldn’t be reading this.

So first things first.

Stock up on munchies

Blood sugar levels must remain constant, a sudden dip while driving and you may find the Hulk at the wheel. Too much and the Hulk turns into Mark Weber.  Fill the glove box with your favourite nuts to keep your protein levels and blood sugar even. Dark chocolate for sudden burst of energy and loads of water to keep you hydrated.

Join the dots

You may think you can set the land speed record for Sydney to Jindabyne but unless there are two of you and you swap passenger and driver seats every two hours then you’ll arrive exhausted from staring at the road. So plan your trip destination to destination.

I go from Sydney to Goulburn and stop at the cycler cafe called Greengrocer Cycling to stretch my legs and get something decent to eat. Then I join the driving dot to Cooma for some sustenance at The Lott then right through to Thredbo.

Chain it up

Snow chains are non optional in the Koscuisko National Park, if you don’t carry them in your car then expect a fine unless you have a four wheel or all wheel drive then you’re ok.  You can hire chains from most petrol stations in Cooma so pick them up there.

When needed fit the chains to the front wheels or rear wheels depending on whether you are a front wheel or rear wheel drive (you can get instructions from the place you hire the chains from). You’re only required to fit them to two wheels. Now drive slowly.

Speaking of slow

Gears are your friend, brakes are your enemy. Drop gears to slow down and double your normal driving distance between you and the car in front. Don’t underestimate this, better to have more distance because icy roads can play havoc with braking.

If you find yourself sliding on the road do not hit the brakes, do remove your foot from the accelerator. If you brake you will lose control as you lose traction. ABS or anti lock brake systems will help but if you don’t have it then pump pump pump those brakes on and off on and off.

It’s the little things

Antifreeze is your friend, use it. Your battery is also your friend and you should double check you are still feeling the battery love before you start the journey. While you’re there check the brake pads too. Oh and the tyres, they need enough tread so if you’re losing it replace them. If not then increase the pressure if you intend to be driving with a heavy load of skis, snowboards, boots and gear.

I can see clearly now

If you can’t see then you can’t drive. Demisting the front windscreen takes good air-conditioning so make sure yours is gassed up.

When your car is sleeping

Whatever you do don’t use the hand or park brake when parking the car in the cold. It can freeze and then snap. Lift your windscreen wipers off the windscreen when parked overnight or they may freeze to the glass.

Hot or cold

Neither. Warm. Use warm water to de-ice windscreens. Too hot and it may crack.

Ammunition

You will need a snow shovel in your car should you get stuck in the snow.  If you do get stuck then traction is what will help you get out so throw a bag of sand or gravel or even kitty litter in the trunk too.

WIN a $100 Coles Express Shell Petrol Voucher

To celebrate Australia’s iconic snow road trips and Shell V-Power LoVe Drives we are giving away a tank of petrol.

giftcard-2

Use it like an ATM card with a pin number found on the back. An easy gift solution for those who like to drive.

What do you love about driving to the snow? What are your driving tips? What winter driving stories do you have? Post a comment on the blog below to enter to win. Open to Australian residents only. Judges decision is final. Winner announced Wednesday May 14 at 9.00am Sydney time on this blog post.

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

36 COMMENTS

  1. No snow season is complete without a quality road trip!
    Last year I flew over to New Zealand with some mates for a two week holiday. There is nothing quite like driving to The Remarkables and Coronet Peak. Winding up those perilous mountains with panoramic views of the surrounding lakes and mountains was a breathtaking experience. With a rented 4WD, snacks, hangovers and a Go Pro, half the fun was in driving to the slopes each day.
    Hope everyone has a great season!

  2. RACV roadside service comes in handy

    turn the headlights off.

    You can also buy a jump start kit:- its a small battery and jumper leads and torch which stays in its hard plastic box in the boot until needed,

    get a snatch strap in case you need a bit of a tow.

    don’t wear clothes that mess up when you fit chains

    check resort policy for chains. Most (all?) don’t allow snow sox and Hotham (iirc) won’t allow spider chains.

    got questions? See a ski shop, check websites, or ask questions on ski forums. Jusy google ‘ski snow forum .au’ and you’ll find 2 great and helpful ones.

    how’s the tread on the tyres?

    do you have a stupid car computer that thinks you have a flat tyre unless chains are fitted to all 4 tyres.

    bought resort entry online?

    Enjoy the drive and watch out speed revenue cameras.

  3. My most memorable story would have to be when we were running on zero bars of fuel (fuel light on!) on the way to the snow. We tried to conserve what fuel we had by turning off the aircon, the radio and cruising at a fuel efficient speed until we finally made it to the petrol station! From then on, we’ve always made sure to have enough fuel to last us til the next stop, and I’m sure that Coles Express Shell voucher would come in handy for that too

  4. Some great tips there, nothing like having a bunch of mates on a mission with excitement buzzing around the car for what awaits at the end of the road trip to the mountain. Good tunes, yummy food, and great banter make the hours go quicker. Keep your thinking caps on and drive carefully around those corners, black ice on the road is a hazard that will take you by surprise as I found out when I was young and dumb driving too fast to get up to the snow, better to make the chairlift later than not at all.

  5. Sydney to Hotham here we come!
    Kids in the back, skis on the roof, munchies readily available….. What’s else do you need? Petrol!

  6. Great advice for those new to snow driving.

    Another stop point is to get off the Monaro Hwy at Fyshwick in Canberra, head to Manuka for Urban Pantry or to Kingston for Penny University, both fab cafes and only about 5 mins off the highway.

    Next stop is East Jindabyne’s Tracies Cafe, you may like to keep the kids in the car as this place has one of the best cake, sweet selection available and their coffee was voted in the top best 10 in Australia by bike riders. While here fill up on fuel for the rest of your trip.

    The cars, hmmm well one thing you also need to know, diesel fuel, buy winter diesel, the reason is that diesel freezes so in cold climates it requires an additive. Hume in Canberra Woolworths petrol change over and have a sign advising, otherwise just ask them.

    Also for all those AWD and 4×4 with city slick, low profile tires, you will need snow sox for your 4 wheels, as you just will not get up any small hill with snow on it.

    And finally, if you are buried under a huge pile of snow at Thredbo, and don’t we wish, then dial Angel, yep and he is an angel, best snow clearer in town :).

  7. I drive most weekends from canberr for a day trip! And even a long weekend away to falls with the bro and mates once a year. All this is great advice and pretty much spot on. Worse thing I did or haven’t done is let me lock on my hard cover on my 4×4 freeze up and I couldn’t get my clothes out when I finished up for the day. Had to drive to jindy in a shirt and jocks!

  8. Great tips!! I road trip from Brisbane and will be doing this for the first time with children in September – that should be an experience. Scariest encounter was meeting a wombat one night on the Alpine Way with my old Falcon way back when. I swerved on what must have been the only ice patch for miles. It was more luck than skill, but got off free from that one.

  9. Great tips!!
    By far the best part about driving to the Australian mountains is when you first see that puffy white goodness at the bottom and you know it’s only going to get better form there 🙂 Bring on the early morning rises and late night drives home any day!!

  10. prepare an epic road trip playlist, allow plenty of time for stops and mini-adventures, and make sure you haven’t left your boots at home!

  11. Chains are great, but knowing how to use them is even better! Make sure you have it under wraps – a friend and I once stopped to help another car to put on their chains (it was their first time at the snow)… and our car got hit halfway up the hill to Falls Creek! In related news, make sure to go slooooow 🙂
    And don’t underestimate the amount of time digging the car out will take! Made that mistake before.. missed flight!

  12. Scariest but coolest thing was when driving down Guthega Rd with chains on and a wombat decided to come out and stretch his legs in the middle of the road. We were going slow enough so were able to stop, and he just stopped and stared at us for a minute and then ran back to his home. Was cool to see him in the wild all covered in snow!

  13. I just love the drive to the snow youre looking and youre waiting to see the very first bit of snow and then you see it! You get all excited like as if youve seen it for the very first time and everyone yells SNOW! I

  14. Love driving to the snow, our alpine country is always so beautiful and unique. One thing I always pack is a small tarp and gloves to put chains on!!! Nothing worse then trying to get those things on with freezing hands and a wet side/ bum!!!

  15. last season coming back from hothom, fogged up like no tomorrow, and come round a bend to find a towie that i knew with the rear end of his car hanging of the side of the road, something i won’t forget

  16. We always do a couple of day trips to mt buller from Geelong , it’s a big day of driving but splitting the drive between 3 adults helps a heap.
    Can’t wait for the season to start !

  17. One time whilst driving the route from Jindabyne to Thredbo at 4 in the morning to start my Liftie shift in 1984 it had snowed about 2 feet over about 3 days, the road was completely white and empty, i thought to myself POWDER RUN and absolutely floored it, it was the most amazing snow drive of my life (for about 2 minutes) and i ended up having to call a friend to come pull me out of a ditch!!

  18. chains – don’t forget that sheet of plastic to sit/kneel/lay on whilst fitting them (and a cheap pair of “riggers gloves” from any hardware store, give you better “feel” when putting on the chains (and mine have been rubbed with bees wax – keeps them drier longer)

  19. Don’t forget that if you’ve spent a fortune on one of the awesome, latest technology, self centring/tightening chain systems (the ONLY chains that will fit on many late model European vehicles) it’s best to completely avoid going to Hotham – as they are the ONLY resort in the entire WORLD to ban them.

  20. My advice, take a small mat that you can kneel on when you are putting the chains on the car. You’ll only be putting them on when it’s slushy so it makes sense not to start off by getting your clothes dirty.
    Better solution, make the kids do it for you instead!

  21. We used to drive to the snow but after leaving our hire chains on a snow bank while repacking the boot one time and then almost losing the car in the Mt Buller car park landslide we only park at the bottom and take the bus up now.

  22. The best part about driving in the snow is how quite it is on a fine day. If your car is diesel, don’t forget to fill up with alpine diesel. You can also buy your own fuel additive.

  23. A good guide for those who don’t know how to drive in the snow, “Speaking of slow” is a VERY IMPORTANT POINT! Unfortunately when driving on the snowy roads, it is all too common to see people panic, using the brakes and sliding off the side off the road. In Reference to the point “Chain it up” I would also recommend having chains on hand in all wheel drive cars, this can help a lot when the roads are heavily icy. I drive a WRX and a Forrester and always keep a good set of chains on hand. Also correct fitment of chains is key! If the chains do not tension to the Tyre properly you can lose them, which can cause damage to your car or loss of traction. If you plan on buying some, look for a good self tension chain from a reputable brand. I personally have a set of the Thule self tension snow chains and have never had an issue. With the point of “Ammunition” I have always found its good to carry a Jump starter with you in case of battery death. Batteries are quite prone to being damaged by cold weather if poorly maintained where the cells inside the battery collapse (Unfortunately I had to learn this the hard way after a weekend in Jindabyne)

  24. Tablets and ipods are essential for traveling with kids. …electronic tablets! (maybe some panadol for the driver). Travelling overnight while they’re asleep is beneficial, but shorten your first day of skiing to let your body adjust for the week ahead. With a minimum of 6 hrs in the car, swapping drivers is essential. Would love to cut down the fuel costs with at least one tank covered with this great prize.

  25. For day trips bring ugg boots to wear in the car. Toasty feet to start & end the day just makes you feel better about the world.

  26. The best thing about driving to the snow is winding down the window when you’re going up the mountain and smelling the crisp mountain air mixed with that unique snow-gum scent. Then quickly putting it up when you realise how cold it is.

    Also when driving to the snow, never assume the petrol station at the bottom of the mountain will be open when you drive back from Albury at 8pm. Those last 30km driving up to Falls Creek with the petrol light on were rather tense. Thanks to the guys at the oversnow for selling us enough petrol to make it back down the hill!

  27. Our most memorable driving experience was last year when we took the kids to Perisher for four days. Unfortunately two hours after we arrived my son badly fractured his leg so that was the end of that holiday. My snowboard didn’t even make it off the car! Anyway, we had to get him home somehow but now he had to take up the entire back seat with his leg out straight in the cast. This meant our other two kids had to go in the seats in the back. Luckily we have a 7 seater but the back seats are effectively the entire boot space so for the return journey we had to cram all our snow gear (for 5 people), all our boots, all our luggage and food into our car, now with no boot space. Let’s just say we were a very cramped and sad family driving back to Sydney. We are off to Falls Creek this year so hopefully we have a much more spacious journey…and no injuries!

  28. When i was little and used to go with my family to the snow my Dad would play a game from Cooma onwards, the first to spot snow got to stay up late one night while we were there. He knew we’d all be exhausted from skiing all day and would probably fall asleep at the dinner table but it was fun none the less. My mum and dad would pick us up from school on a friday with a thermos of hot chocolate and we’d start the drive down to Jindabyne and change in the car or at the rest stop near canberra. The drive was so much part of our snow weekends and holidays, we would play eye spy and come up with three words from the registration plates in front of us and try to outdo each other with how rude we could be without mum and dad getting mad.

  29. I drove over 6000km in total last year driving to the snow. 3 separate trips from Adelaide, across 1000km of this Great Southern Land to the Victorian high country – with 2 kids – and back! Only discovered the snow a few years ago and have fallen in love with the experience… can’t really afford it, but you only live once. This year we can only afford one trip, so we will be going over for the SA Interschools at Mt Buller in July. We love the long drive and over the last couple of years have found a route and routine that works well for us… although occasionally we have driven all the way through on the way home, 10hrs straight! My advice is to take your time if you can, especially with kids – break up the journey. And be sure to make sure the kids put down their iPods and 3DSs and look out the window every now and again – especially when you reach the mountains… Safe driving!

  30. I love drive to mt buller with my brother and the one thing we need is good music it’s a must. ..
    I also drive up to jindabyne from Melbourne with the wife and kids and like you said breaking the trip up as the key. We stop at wodonga and at khancoban the alpine inn does a great stake.

  31. Great tips. For me, having discovered skiing 8 years ago at the age of 42 i feel like I have to cram in as much as I can before my time runs out. Living in Brisbane makes it a bit of a challenge, but for the last few years we’ve managed a southern and Northern hemisphere trip each year.
    We like to leave Brisvegas on a Friday after work, and make Coffs Harbour that night, then Canberra Saturday.
    Early start Sunday Morning gets you to perisher or thredbo in time to get your half day Sunday in.
    Staying in jindabyne means you can pick & choose depending on conditions (plus it’s cheaper – & remember if you’re comparing, if you go to nz you can’t generally stay on snow.)
    Then Canberra Friday night and Coffs Saturday, home Sunday.
    Coming from subtropical SEQld there’s nothing quite like that first glimpse of snow to get your heart racing!!

  32. Ok. Best tip I can give is to please DO NOT pull up on the road or highway to take photos, toboggan or admire the view. We travel along the Snowy Mountains Highway on a regular basis and are constantly amazed that people disregard the safety of themselves, their children, their friends and other road users. The roads can be icy and stopping times are increased. Avoiding cars, people and children puts everyone at risk!

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