Driving to a ski resort

General advice about winter tyres and snow chains if you're driving in Europe this winter

Road conditions abroad in winter are likely to be more severe than you would normally see at home

Road conditions abroad in winter are likely to be more severe than you would normally see at home

If you're driving to one of Europe's winter sports destinations you need to be prepared for road conditions more severe than anything you would normally encounter at home.

The law in some countries requires residents to use winter tyres at certain times of the year or when conditions are appropriate but then permits visitors to drive on 'summer' tyres – fitted with snow chains when conditions or local signs dictate.

Winter tyres in Germany

The rules in Germany changed at the end of 2010 - regulations now require all passenger cars and motorbikes including vehicles from foreign countries to be fitted with winter tyres or all season tyres on all axles when conditions are wintery.

If your vehicle becomes stuck during the winter months because the tyres are unsuitable you will be liable to an on the spot fine in Germany. If the vehicle causes an obstruction and aggravation to other traffic, the fine may be doubled. You may also be prevented from continuing your journey.

Why wouldn't you fit winter tyres?

If you are driving for a considerable distance in mainland Europe during the winter months we would recommend fitting winter tyres before travelling – irrespective of what the minimum legal requirement may be.

  • Winter tyres give significantly improved handling and reduce stopping distances when the weather is cold (below 7C) and wet as well as when roads are covered in snow and ice.
  • You will likely have to spend more time driving in wintery conditions on a trip abroad at this time of year than you would do so at home.
  • You are likely to encounter more severe conditions than at home.
  • Roads are likely to be more challenging than at home.
  • Most of the other vehicles you come across will be fitted with winter tyres.
  • Winter tyres will be beneficial throughout the winter at home rather than just being used for your skiing trip.

Read more about the benefits of winter tyres>>

Snow chains

Check local rules with your travel company or holiday rep before you go. Check with your insurer too as they may have specific requirements for winter resorts.

Practice fitting snow chains before you go as they may be easier to fit when your hands are cold and the wheel arches filled with snow if you've practiced first in the warm/dry at home.

If you are hiring a car, check with the hire company what tyres are fitted as they may not be suitable for the journey you're planning.

Read more about fitting snow chains>>

Winter Fuel Specifications

Wax crystals can form in diesel when temperatures are very low.  These block the fuel filter and prevent fuel flow.

European quality standard for diesel fuel include winter requirements specific to each country which ensure that fuel is suited to the local climate.

  • Fuel capable of operation down to at least -20C is normal in the popular winter resort destinations.
  • Winter diesel sold in the UK ensures operation down to a minimum temperature of - 15C.

You should avoid carrying UK spec diesel fuel in a spare can as this won't have the same extreme low temperature capability as local fuel at your destination.

So called 'cold flow' additives are not required nor are they recommended.

(12 November 2012)