The Snow Gauge

Running the rule over the ski & snowboard industry since 1995

The love/hate relationship with chains

Posted by on Jul 21, 2017 in Australia, New Zealand | 0 comments

snow chains

If you’ve skied or snowboarded in Australia or New Zealand there’s quite a chance the “c” word fills you with a degree of dread.

Chains.

It sounds like you’ll be shackled or tortured. Or at least your car will.

But are they to be feared? Are they overused? Or are they simply something that will save your car – or potentially your life?

Two things got me thinking about the whole chains situation again in the last couple of weeks.

First was the bank up of cars at Prussian Creek (the last minor climb before Smiggins on the way to Perisher and a common spot for chain fitting when snow is blowing on the road) one day during the recent school holidays.

While there was perhaps a few centimetres of new snow it caused delays upwards of 40 minutes for all cars; four wheel drives eventually ushered through but unable to escape the initial hold up as two wheel drives were led off the road to fit chains.

The second was the debate that has been started by a rather amusing question posed and posted on ski.com.au below:

chians

Pretty pithy I thought. And there were some great responses ranging from those siding with Arsas to others detailing their frustrations at Camry drivers fitting chains on perfectly dry bitumen without a snowflake in sight. You can read the full responses: here

In Thredbo I’ve been lucky and never had to put chains on (I have been in cars that have had them fitted though). With the lower village elevation it will take some kind of storm to need them on 4wds – though that perhaps says more about the unfortunate times I choose to go to the snow.

It’s been a little while since I have had to at Perisher and around 10 years at Mt Hotham (over admittedly only a handful of visits), which given its elevation and exposure would make it the main chain resort in Australia.

In NSW it is compulsory for 2wds to carry snow chains for use in some roads of the Kosciuszko National Park  between the June and October long weekends while in Victoria Vic Roads state that they must be fitted where directed in resort areas

You should note that Mt Hotham only allows the use of diamond-patterned snow chains – which has created something of a debate itself.

As noted by poster Hermannator on the ski.com.au forums, confusing signage doesn’t help:

My biggest problems with chains haven’t occurred in Australia but NZ.

I copped a freak storm in the last 100-200m of the Cardrona carpark and despite being in (a pretty crap admittedly) 4wd nearly slid off the road as cars suddenly came to a standstill and I couldn’t grip going uphill to get going again. I wisely fitted the chains for the way back down.

On another occasion I found myself in a last minute decision to go to Hanmer Springs, a tiny club field in New Zealand.

What started as some very light rain at the base of the access road developed into a full on snow storm halfway up the hill. I was in a Subaru 4wd and had chains but wasn’t quite prepared for the length of the drive in and also needed assistance getting these particular chains on.

The kicker to that story and perhaps the hairiest road I have driven on was that I started driving too close to the mountain side of the road and ultimately got bogged in a water course and had to get towed out. Fun times.

So what to make of it all.

They can be a pain but I think old mate Arsas has a point.  While I have been guilty myself of not following his advice this sums it up pretty well:

“I guess a lot of people dont follow the 6 P’s.
Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
I know that I would rather be in a 2WD fitted with chains than a 4WD with no chains on those really bad days.”

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