Driving in snow
Are you heading to the snow? Find out when you need to use snow chains, how to prepare your vehicle, and how to drive safely in the snow.
Driving safely in the snow
Find information about using snow chains, preparing for and driving in snow, and national park passes.
Snow chains are loops of chain that fit over your car's tyres to provide extra traction in the snow. In certain locations it is against the law to drive without snow chains fitted to your vehicle.
The NSW Police Force and other authorised officers may conduct regular chain inspections. If you're driving in snowy areas without chains, you could be fined.
Which vehicles need snow chains?
All Two Wheel Drive (2WD) vehicles entering Kosciuszko National Park between the June and October long weekends must carry snow chains.
Some types of tyre configurations may not be able to have snow chains fitted to them. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to see whether snow chains can be fitted to your vehicle. If they cannot, then you should look at using a different vehicle for your trip, or organise new tyres for your car.
You must 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.
It is also recommended that snow chains be carried on:
- Alpine Way between Jindabyne and Thredbo
- the Snowy Mountains Highway.
Four Wheel Drive (4WD) and All Wheel Drive (AWD) vehicles do not require chains under National Parks regulations. Still, it is recommended that you carry chains with you, and fit the chains to your car when driving on ice and snow.
Vehicles fitted with snow or winter tyres are not required to fit chains.
Hiring snow chains
You can hire or buy snow chains before you leave home or on your way to the snow. There are many hire outlets along the route to NSW snow country.
Your car's handbook or the snow chain supplier will explain:
- the best chains for your wheel diameter and tyre size
- which tyres to fit the chains to.
The chain provider should show you how to fit the snow chains. Practise fitting them yourself before heading off.
Fitting snow chains
Take a waterproof blanket or groundsheet to protect you from the road when you fit the chains. You don't need to jack up your car to fit the chains. It can be hazardous to do this if the road is icy and slippery.
Chains should always be fitted in chain bays. However, if you do need to fit your snow chains on the roadside:
- choose a straight stretch of road where other drivers can see you
- make sure there’s enough room to park and fit the chains safely
- turn your hazard lights on.
When you fit the chains, make sure they are properly tensioned, secure and the ends of the chains aren't loose. They can do a lot of damage to your car if not correctly fastened.
How to drive with snow chains
It is recommended that cars with radial tyres shouldn't drive faster than 40km/h when fitted with chains.
Stop and check the tension of the chains after driving about 200 metres.
Remove the chains immediately when you're told it's safe to do so. There will be signs telling you when it is safe.
Get a mechanical check
It's important to know your car is in good condition before your trip to the snow. You might want to take it to a mechanic to check the:
- cooling system
- windscreen wipers
- electrical system (particularly the alternator)
Ask your mechanic to check if you need anti-freeze in your radiator or a special coolant for low temperatures.
If you need anti-freeze, match the amount to the capacity of the cooling system. If you don’t add the right amount the engine block, heater core and radiator may crack as the coolant freezes. This may leave you stranded and with an expensive bill for towing and repairs.
Fuel for snow conditions
If you drive a diesel vehicle, fill your tank with Alpine Diesel from a service station close to the snowfields. Plan your journey to arrive with plenty of room in your fuel tank for this fuel.
Alternatively you can add an alpine diesel additive to stop your fuel from freezing.
Dual fuel vehicles (LPG/petrol) should switch to petrol before entering alpine areas.
Create an emergency kit
Before your trip, make sure you have these items with you in case of an emergency:
- tow rope
- set of wheel chocks
- plastic scraper (for scraping ice off the windscreen)
- bottle of water
- waterproof blanket or groundsheet
- first aid kit.
Adjust your speed
Slow down when conditions get worse and drive with caution in fog, snow or on ice.
Use your headlights
Keep your headlights on at all times as they increase your visibility. Use your fog lights (if you have them) when it is foggy or if the weather gets worse.
Overtaking and braking
Allow extra distance from the vehicle in front as you can't brake as fast in snow and ice. When braking, do it gently and early. When accelerating, do it slowly.
Never overtake on a hill, at a bend or an intersection.
Be aware of trucks
There is an increase in heavy vehicle movement due to the Snowy 2.0 project.
Take extra care/caution when driving near trucks in snowy areas. It’s important to remember that trucks have less visibility and reduced mobility. They require longer sight distances to merge and overtake, as well as longer distances to accelerate, brake and come to a complete stop.
Look out for signage and snow poles
In snow country, watch out for signs advising you to fit snow chains, as well as wildlife warning signs. Many road crashes in alpine areas involve native animals crossing roads, particularly at dawn and dusk.
Snow poles are painted orange and are tall enough for drivers to get their bearings in heavy snow. Don't keep driving if you can't see the edge of the road or the next snow pole. Stop your car in a safe location off the road, put on your hazard lights and wait for a break in the weather.
Black ice is a transparent layer of ice that forms on the road surface in shaded areas. You can't see it, but you'll know if you hit it as the car will slide. If you notice black ice, use your headlights to warn oncoming drivers.
Avoid travel fatigue
Most people have to travel a considerable distance to get to the snow fields. Make use of Driver Reviver sites and be sure to have regular breaks.
For tips on avoiding driver fatigue, see Driver fatigue.
Park in marked areas
Only park in marked parking areas so your car is not buried by a snow drift or damaged by snow-clearing vehicles.
Don't apply the handbrake
Moisture can freeze cables and brake linings. If you have a manual handbrake and you're parked on a flat surface, don't apply the handbrake. Put the car in gear and chock the wheels instead.
Leave the car in gear
Put the car in gear with the front wheels turned away from the road slope.
Fit snow chains
Even if chains were not required when you entered the parking area, you should fit them after you park, as conditions can change quickly. It's easier to do this straight away, while the weather is clear.
Clear ice from windows and mirrors
Clear all glass and mirrors of ice using a plastic ice scraper before you drive away from the car park. You can also use lukewarm water to clear ice but don't use your windscreen wipers – they'll make it worse. Do not use boiling or hot water.
To demist the inside of the windows, use the car's heater and fan.
Lift windscreen wipers
Unless you're parking for a short time, it's a good idea to lift the wipers off your windscreen or place them in a plastic bag so they won't stick to the glass.
Warm the engine
When you're about to start driving after being parked in a snowy area, check the exhaust pipe is clear and then start the engine. Let your car's engine warm up for a few minutes and let the windows demist before driving off.
Get a national park pass
Details on buying passes are available on the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services website
Passes allow you to use the National Park pass holder lane on:
- Kosciuszko Road at Sawpit Creek
- Alpine Way Visitor Entry Stations.
Look for the signs about which lane to use for pass holder entry.
Before visiting, get the most up-to-date information on fires, floods and park closures. See Alerts for NSW national parks.
Kosciuszko Road between Perisher Blue and Charlotte Pass is often closed for most of the snow season to all vehicles except residents. There is no overnight parking beyond Sawpit Creek.
You can also check alpine traffic conditions on the Live Traffic NSW website.
Snowy 2.0 is the largest committed renewable energy project in Australia. It involves creating 27km of tunnels and an underground power station to link two existing dams in Tantangara and Talbingo, in order to generate renewable hydro energy.
Building Snowy 2.0 is no small task
Around 8,000 shipping containers of equipment and materials are needed, and around 600 vehicles and trucks will be working on the project.
This means there are more truck movements in the project area, particularly on the Snowy Mountains Highway between Cooma, Cabramurra, Adaminaby, and Tumut and around the Polo Flat industrial area.
Road users can expect some delays when roads are down to single lanes, and speed limits are reduced.
At certain points, large pieces of equipment will need to be moved to and from the site on heavy oversized vehicles. Some sections of the road will be partially or fully closed while this takes place.
When road closures are required, they will be carefully scheduled to minimise the impact on motorists. Generally, they will take place overnight or early in the morning and not on weekends.
Where possible, partial closures will be carried out to allow the highway to remain open and police will direct motorists to pull over until the trucks have passed.
See the traffic schedule for more information.