Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Traffic in the snow-covered Alps and why you need to be extra careful with driving

We have been regularly going to the Alps for our wintersport holiday every winter season. We normally take a week-long skiing holiday.  Last year we were in Valmorel-Le Crey in France, the year before that in Gerlos, Austria. This year in Saint Francois Longchamp, France. Next year we will try another wintersport terrain, maybe in France again.

Snow covered village and snow chains

On our last day in the Alps it snowed, and we woke up to a mountain village covered deep in immaculate white and mist. Luckily, the snow bulldozers were already busy as early as 08:00 freeing up the streets from snow.

Dutchman and I were not looking forward to installing the snow chains on the car.

We had bad experiences with snow chains and it was only this year that we actually learned how to ‘properly’ install these. We were quite surprised that it was actually quite easy?! Armed with this newfound skill, Dutchman and I are now more than eager and looking forward to our future wintersport holidays. No more snow chains nightmares.

Traffic in the Alps

Naturally when it is snowing or has snowed in the mountains, there is an aftermath of traffic especially on the weekends when holidaymakers leave and arrive. The cause of alpine traffic can be because of many things such as the following I documented below. We encountered them during the drive down to the valley.

A bus getting ditched off the road (mountain roads are narrow and winding):

An accident (which is the reason why you need to install the snow chains when driving in the mountains when there is snow!). I hope the driver and passengers survived the accident though. Scary.

Two-way traffic on the narrow mountain road with vehicles twice/thrice as large as your car.

Thus the traffic build-up.

Interestingly, the local French police does not speak a single word of English. What do we expect? We are in France. I guess I am just so used to the Netherlands and other smaller countries where people readily speak the international language—English with foreigner and tourists. The French police were polite though.

Finally we reached the valley and we de-installed the snow chains. Everyone did the same thing. There were police officers barricading the road as well. They were checking and making sure that all vehicles going up the mountain have their snow chains installed.

These are the views as we drove down the alps to the valley. Beautiful! See, no snow here in the valley.

And when we reached the first village, we were stopped by police again. As it is, we had to struggle with our non-existing French because these police officers do not speak a word of English. Dutchman wondered how these people survive when they travel on holiday abroad? I told Dutchman that many French people prefer to holiday in their own country.

Anyway, the police asked us to clear the pack of snow sitting on the roof of our car. Everyone coming down from the mountain was asked to do this before further driving away. This is really just a precaution because it can be a nuissance to have snow falling on the highway, if not, snow from the other car’s roof come crashing down to your windshield. It can be dangerous.

Wintersport wrap up

And here, driving on the highway... going back now to the Netherlands.

I am glad winter is over but I look forward to next season’s skiing holiday. But first, let us enjoy the beauty of spring, the warmth of summer and the mystery of autumn.

This wraps up our wintersport holiday last January.

Travel Period: January 2013
Destination: Saint Francois Longchamp (Savoie - Rhone-Alpes), France

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