Top tips for mountain driving

Snow sports and cottage breaks make mountain resorts a popular choice for winter getaways, but not everyone feels confident about getting there on four wheels. The following eight tips for driving on snow-clad mountains will help you enjoy a safe, stress-free winter road trip.

Check your car's winter capabilities

Whether you're hiring a car or taking your own, you need to make sure your tyres have the recommended winter tread depth of at least 3mm and are properly inflated. It is also crucial that your brake and transmission fluids are full – this will help prevent overheating from more frequent braking.

Prepare for emergencies

An ice scraper, hand-held shovel and flashlights are crucial for keeping you safe on the road. It is also a good idea to bring a car charger for your mobile in case you need to call for help. Make sure your friends and family know where you're heading and your rough arrival and departure times so they can flag up any potential emergencies.

Show other drivers courtesy

When faced with mountain walls and cliffs, your first reaction may be to hug the centre line. Don't. If you come across another car, you may feel the need to over-correct. This is more hazardous than staying in your lane in the first place. At night it's also essential to dim your high beams as soon as you meet another vehicle – impairing a driver's vision on mountain roads can be very dangerous.

Make sufficient use of the gearshift

When going down mountain roads, prioritise downshifting over braking to hold your speed. As a general rule, you shouldn't go down a hill any faster than you can go up it. Likewise, you'll need to downshift on steep upgrades to maintain control of the vehicle.

Give uphill drivers the right of way

If a stretch of the road is too narrow for two cars, it is important to let the car driving uphill go first. Cars are more at risk of stalling uphill – not least because standard horsepower is reduced at higher elevations. Once they've safely made it up the hill, it will be safer for you to proceed and you'll also have more time to downshift where necessary.

Slow down off piste

No matter how accustomed you are to going off piste on the ski slopes, speeding down unpaved roads is inadvisable. Unpaved surfaces offer less traction than paved roads, so slow down and take wider turns than usual around bends.

Practise good driver safety

Navigating mountain roads can be more exhausting than driving on flat roads, so prepare ahead of time by checking your GPS or maps and the road conditions for your planned route. Take frequent breaks so you can relax and refocus when necessary. And drink lots of water. At higher elevations, poor hydration can impact your alertness.

Stop to enjoy the views

That's what they're there for. The mountains offer some stunning vistas which can serve as a backdrop to photos that will last a lifetime. Just make sure you pull over at designated photo stops. Holding up traffic on the mountain won't help you make friends with your fellow road trippers.

For more advice on driving in challenging conditions, contact one of our team today.