What to Know Before Hitting the Snow
Snow chains & driving safely to the slopes
While Australia is known the world over for its white sandy beaches, turquoise blue reef water and gorgeous rocky red outback, it also has its fair share of snow slopes that attract powder seekers each year.
Every winter, Australia’s alpine regions in Victoria and New South Wales turn into a white playground. From the snow resorts at Mt Buller in Victoria, to the steep terrains of Thredbo and Jindabyne NSW, Australia has plenty of options for snow lovers.
But, before you throw on your ski pants and gloves and accelerate to the slopes, there are some things you need to know to ensure that you follow the road rules and stay safe. One of the most important things to remember is to pack your snow chains.
If it’s your first trip to the snow in Australia, or it’s your first white winter, you may be scratching your head right now. Don’t worry we’ve got everything you need to know about this important snow safety must-have.
What are snow chains?
First things first: what are snow chains?
Simply put, they are chains that fit around the drive tyres of your vehicle to provide better traction when driving on snow or ice.
When should you use snow chains?
Snow chain requirements in Australia
The rules around snow chains vary slightly between states. But in general, snow chains are required in alpine regions throughout Australia’s snow season which runs between the June long weekend and the October long weekend each year.
When to use snow chains - NSW
The NSW Government states that:
All 2-wheel drive vehicles entering Kosciuszko National Park during snow season must carry snow chains. If you’re caught driving without them you’ll be hit with a hefty fine.
You must also carry snow chains on the following roads:
- Kosciuszko Road from the Kosciuszko National Park boundary at Thredbo River to Perisher Valley
- Alpine Way between Thredbo and Tom Groggin
- Island Bend/Guthega Road for its full length
- Snow chains are also recommended to be carried on Alpine Way between Jindabyne and Thredbo, and on the Snowy Mountains Highway.
While NSW snow chain rules only apply to 2WD vehicles it is still strongly recommended that 4WD and AWD cars carry snow chains throughout the winter months as a precaution for extreme weather conditions.
When to use snow chains in Victoria
The Alpine Resorts (Management) Regulations 2009 states that:
- All vehicles entering an alpine resort during snow season must carry properly fitting snow chains.
- An authorised officer may direct you to fit snow chains to the drive wheels of your vehicle or, in the case of a four-wheel drive vehicle, to either the front or rear wheels.
Snow chain FAQ’s
Do I need to put snow chains on all 4 tyres?
You only need to fit chains to the driving wheels of your car.
Do snow chains ruin your tyres?
Snow chains can cause some minor cosmetic damage to your tyres but this will be minimised if you fit them properly in accordance to the instructions.
How fast can you drive with snow chains?
Keep your speed below 40km/h when driving in snowy conditions.
Do I need snow chains on a 4WD?
Rules vary slightly from state to state. It is recommended that all vehicles entering alpine regions throughout the snow season carry snow chains so that they can be properly fitted if conditions require it or if instructed by authorities.
How do I fit snow chains?
1) Pull up to a fitting bay located on level ground (it can get a bit tricky to fit chains on a slope or on uneven terrain). These bays are usually well signed in snow regions.
2) Fit chains to the driving wheels of your car. Your snow chain provider should be able to show you how to fit them but, if in doubt – consult your car’s handbook.
Where can I buy/hire snow chains?
Chains can usually be hired at service stations and ski-hire shops in snow regions. However, it may be worth picking them up before you hit the road so that you’re not unprepared in a snow storm.
Other things to know when heading to the snow
We’ve got a few extra tips to ensure your trip to the slopes runs smoothly.
Book in for a full vehicle check before you leave
If you’re planning a winter getaway then now is the time to book your car in for a vehicle check. Be sure to let the mechanic know that you’re snowbound so that your tyres, brakes, battery, engine and windscreen can all be checked before you hit the road. The last thing anyone wants is a blizzard breakdown.
When was the last time you had your car checked?
We recommend booking in for a vehicle inspection at least once every 6 months to keep your car running safely.
Check the traffic conditions ahead of time
Snowy conditions often lead to road closures and altered traffic conditions so it’s always best to check what’s happening along your route before setting off.
The following websites can help: