Before you go
Get a national park pass
Details on buying passes are available on the NSW Government Environment and Heritage website. Passes allow you to use the National Park pass holder lane on Kosciuszko Road at Sawpit Creek and Alpine Way Visitor Entry Stations. Look for the signs about which lane to use for pass holder entry.
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 check alpine conditions on the Live Traffic NSW website.
Have your vehicle checked
Snowfield conditions may highlight existing vehicle faults, particularly in the electrical system. Have your tyres, battery, brakes, cooling system, engine and windscreen inspected.
Add anti-freeze to your engine radiator. You'll need to match the amount of anti-freeze to the capacity of the coolant system. If the coolant freezes, the engine block and radiator may crack, leaving you stranded with an expensive repair bill. Most modern cars use coolant with wide temperature capabilities, but you'll need to check with your service provider if special coolant is needed. Adding anti-freeze to your windscreen washing fluid will prevent it freezing on the windscreen when driving.
Use cold-weather diesel
Diesel ‘waxes’ at low temperature which blocks the fuel system and immobilises the vehicle. If you drive a diesel vehicle, ensure you use fuel formulated for use in cold conditions, such as ‘Alpine Diesel’. This is only usually available close to the snow fields, so plan your journey to arrive with plenty of room in your fuel tank for this fuel.
Allow enough time for your trip
Ensure you allow enough time for the trip. Weather can change quickly in the mountains and make progress slow. If authorities order a ‘snow chain day’, there can be delays at snow chain bays to fit and remove chains.
Avoid travel fatigue
Most people have to travel a long way to the snow fields. Ensure you have regular breaks to stop, revive and survive.
Driving to the snow fields can be tiring because of bad weather, darkness and narrow, winding roads. Watch for signs of travel fatigue and stop and rest as soon as you feel tired.
Prepare for emergencies
Carry a torch, blanket, dry clothes, tow rope, spade, wheel chocks and first-aid kit.
On the road
Watch your speed
Adjust your speed to the weather. Slow down when conditions deteriorate and proceed with caution, particularly in fog, snow or ice conditions.
Operation Snow Safe
The police and transport authorities work together to target speeding, drink driving and seatbelt offences committed by people travelling to and from the snow.
Daytime running lights
Ambient light in the mountains can be poor, especially in winter. Drive with your headlights on low beam during daytime to improve your visibility to other road users. Make sure you turn on your vehicle's fog or head lights when the weather turns bad.
Obey traffic signs
Always obey the speed limit and signs, especially wildlife warning signs. Many road accidents in the alpine areas involve native animals crossing roads, particularly at night. Variable message signs provide up-to-date information about the weather, road conditions and if snow chains have to be fitted.
Snow poles and road edges
Don’t drive if you can’t see the edge of the road or the next snow pole. These are painted orange and are tall enough for drivers to find their way in heavy snow.
Take care when driving at night or at dawn or dusk, when surface moisture and dew can freeze into black ice. Difficult to detect, black ice can remain in shaded or low-lying areas even during fine days.
Snow chains are recommended when driving in bad conditions to help drivers and reduce accidents. Possible snow and ice risk sections are identified with yellow lane line marking and signs.
National Park regulations require all vehicles (except four wheel drive vehicles) in the National Park to carry chains between the June and October long weekends when driving through designated ‘snow and ice’ risk sections. These are identified by black and yellow signs within the Kosciuszko National Park. The current designated ‘snow and ice’ risk sections are:
- Alpine Way – Thredbo to Tom Grogin
- Kosciuszko Road within the National Park boundary
- Guthega Road within the National Park boundary
When directed by signs or authorities, fit the chains to the vehicles driving wheels. There are special chain fitting bays along the route.
- Make sure you fit the chains to the driving wheels, which are the back wheels on rear wheel drive cars and front wheels on front wheel drive cars. If in doubt, check in the car user’s manual or with your service provider.
- Make sure your chains are suitable for the wheel diameter and tyre size of your vehicle. If possible, practise fitting the chains in good conditions, so that you know how to put them on.
- To be effective, some part of the chain must be in contact with the road surface at all times. Some types of snow chains, such as certain ladder chains, should not be used as the spacing between the chain rungs can be excessive and allow the bare tyre contact with the road surface.
- Tyre pressure should be 25 PSI or higher when using chains. Tyre manufactures recommend that cars with radial tyres shouldn't travel faster than 40 km/h when fitted with chains. Stop and check the tension of the chains after driving about 200 metres.
- Remove the chains promptly when you are told it's safe to do so.
- Random chain inspections take place throughout the ski season and offending drivers face fines exceeding $300.
- Chain bays are located on Kosciuszko Road at:
- Sawpit Creek
- Wilsons Valley
- Dainers Gap
- Prussian Creek
- Chain bays are located on the Alpine Way at:
- Thredbo Diggings
- Ranger Station
- Although excluded from the requirements to carry and fit chains, it is recommended that drivers of 4WD vehicles (which include off-road vehicles, all wheel drive vehicles and sports utilities), except those fitted with winter tyres, carry snow chains and fit them when directed. They improve traction on roads made slippery with ice and snow. Chains are also helpful in extreme weather conditions.
- Winter tyres are designed for driving on roads affected by snow or ice. They provide performance equivalent to snow chains on 4WD vehicles when driving on snow, and a better performance than standard tyres when driving on clear roads in cold conditions. Sometimes known as ‘snow tyres’, they should not be confused with ‘snow and mud tyres’ that are commonly fitted to off-road vehicles. Winter tyres are marked with a standard logo symbolising a snow flake and a mountain.
- As an alternative to snow chains, 4WD vehicles not fitted with winter tyres may be fitted with snow traction devices, such as items made from textiles, that comply with the Austrian Standard ONORM V5121.1.
When you're there
It is important to park only in designated parking areas and follow the directions of parking attendants. It may mean a slightly longer walk but it’s better than finding your car damaged at the end of the day by snow clearing vehicles.
Don't apply the handbrake
Moisture can freeze cables and brake linings. Instead, chock the wheels, but don’t use rocks as they may damage snow clearing machines.
Leave the car in gear
Leave the car in gear with the front wheels turned away from the slope. Remove wheel chocks from parking area when leaving.
Fit snow chains
Even if chains were not required to enter the area, it may be advisable to fit them when parking. It is easier to do this early in the day rather than later when weather conditions may have changed.
Clear ice from windows and mirrors
Clear all glass and mirrors of ice before attempting to drive away from snowfields. Carry an ice-scraper to clear the bulk of the snow, ice and frost, and use the vehicle's heater and fan in conjunction with the air conditioner.
Protect windscreen wipers
If you're parking for an extended period, lift wipers off your windscreen or place them in a plastic bag so they won't stick to the glass.
Warm the engine
Warm the engine for a few minutes before driving off.
For more information on safe driving in snow, refer to Vehicle Standards Information 57 Driving in snow and ice conditions (PDF, 161Kb).