For a family more used to Easter ski trips, the decision to take a week early in the season, pre Christmas, was very unusual. As we now normally drive to our chosen resort, it took some extra planning; driving a long way across Europe in December promised to be quite different to taking to the road in the spring. The shorter days and colder temperatures looked set to make the whole journey wintery, unlike Easter travel which often has an early summer feel to most of the journey.
So, it was time to get the family, kit-carrying VW Transporter Kombi winterised.
CDG-Cars.com ordered me a set of Pirelli Sotto Zero 3 winter tyres and, in case of deeper snow, two pairs of suitably sized Snoxs, or snow socks – these are very easy-to-fit elasticated, fabric, faux ‘snow chains’.
I had researched the concept of winter tyres a little and there is much more to the topic than a chunkier, snow clearing tread pattern. The key thing seems to be that the rubber compound is much softer which gives the tyre more grip at the lower average temperatures in the winter.
The journey went without hitch, with the tyres performing perfectly delivering what seemed to be a much softer ride and no hint of any loss of traction on what little snow and slush we encountered high in the Alps.
The Snoxs remain unused, waiting for the next trip or the travel chaos that 2 inches of snow seems to cause back at home!
One final point, throughout the journey, this time to Austria, I noticed once again the much better lane discipline on Northern European motorways than we have here in the UK. On the M25 it is quite common for the overtaking lane (the outside lane) to be full and two, often three other lanes with just a handful of vehicles. This effectively reduces the capacity of the motorway to little more than one lane. On this trip through Europe and especially in Belgium, whose residents have long had (wrongly) a bad-drivers label attached by many Brits, drivers for the most part did not hog the outside lane but rather used it as intended as an overtaking-only lane swiftly making their way to the inner-most lane and hence the traffic flowed much more freely. Bravo the Belgians!