Winter driving tips

Winter driving

As an alpine region, we can experience extreme weather conditions such as ice, snow, fog and wet weather in winter so if you're self-driving it's important to ensure you're well prepared as conditions can change quickly.  In particular, watch out for...

  • Very cold mornings - fresh snow, ice and grit on the roads are likely hazards so take care, slow down and avoid sudden braking
  • Shaded areas and bridge decks - these are often more slippery
  • Grit - local roads will often be gritted, particularly after a frost and especially on road corners. Slow down on a gritted surface.
  • Black ice - when a clear and cold day is followed by mist or light rain, moisture on the roads can freeze and create black ice.  Extreme caution - particularly around daybreak - is advised and, if at all possible, try to delay your travel plans for an hour or two until the temperature warms up.

Plan ahead

If you're driving on Central Otago, Queenstown and Milford/Te Anau state highways and some local roads you must carry chains in the winter months and check road conditions before setting out.

Tips for safe winter travelling

  • Ensure your vehicle is safe for winter driving, make sure you have chains/snow socks and know how to put them on.  A small shovel and a mat to kneel on will also make the process of putting them on much easier.  If there is a warning in place to carry or fit chains you may be fined if you do not comply.
  • Don't pour hot water on your windscreen to defrost it - carry an instant de-icing agent and scraper (available from service stations and stores like Repco) and a bottle of water.  Make sure your windscreen is fully defrosted before driving as fines may apply.
  • Allow extra travel time and drive to the road/weather conditions. I

    f you are driving slower and there are vehicles behind you, look out for bays on the side of the road

     and pull over to let the traffic pass 
  • Slow down and be prepared for unexpected hazards
  • Allow greater following distance between you and the vehicle ahead
  • Don't brake or corner sharply – gently does it!
  • If you're going up steep hills, keep your revs low so you don't spin the tyres and lose control
  • Make sure your mobile phone is well charged and carry a car charger
  • Have blankets/sleeping bag, snacks and bottles of water in the car in case of an emergency, breakdown or unexpected weather event.

And if you don't feel confident driving in the conditions, there are plenty of public and private transport options available, from buses up to the ski fields to free shuttles provided by activity operators, so sit back and enjoy the scenery while someone else drives!