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From Verona to Innsbruck by car in winter II?

From Verona to Innsbruck by car in winter II?

Dec 24th, 2003, 05:09 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2003
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From Verona to Innsbruck by car in winter II?

Message: I would like some comments related my itinerary by car:

January, 15: from Verona to Innsbruck
Januray, 17: from Innsbruck to Zurich
Januray, 18 : from Zurich to Genoa.

Such itinerary by car is possible? Is it dangerous (snow, fog, windy).

I would really appreciate who could give information about it.

Thank you and Merry Christmas for all,

ronaldogi is offline  
Dec 25th, 2003, 11:18 AM
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If you are absolutely determined to drive then your question becomes totally academic. In the Winter, especially, I would opt for rail travel so you can relax and really see the scenery....of course, you get less flexibility but your itinerary sounds like the car is simply a means of getting from place to place..fine if you want to work every day.
Dec 25th, 2003, 11:23 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
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Hello Ronaldo,

I've been to Europe in winter, but I flew from one city to another, so have not done inter-city driving in Europe in winter. When I asked on another travel discussion board about road conditions in the far northern part of Italy in winter, another very experienced European traveller told me that the roads were well maintained, but that winter travel nevertheless was slower than summer travel, as I know from my own experience of living near Canada's Rocky Mountains.

I'm taking a wild guess that the "br" in your e-mail address stands for Brazil. If my guess is correct, you may not have experience of driving in snowy places, so I'll provide some general tips on that.

(1) If I were you I would insist on renting a front-wheel drive car. Under no circumstances would I attempt to drive a rear-wheel drive car in snowy / icy conditions. It's easier to control a front-wheel drive car in slippery conditions. Most newer cars are front-wheel drive, so I consider it unlikely that you'd be given a rear-wheel drive one anyway, but I mention this just in case.

(2) Keep in mind that there are fewer daylight hours in the northern hemisphere during winter. I think it would be a good idea to try to reach your destination city on any given day while it is still daylight. It's easier to navigate around a strange place in daylight than it is in the dark.

(3) Although it's unlikely, it's just possible that your trip could be delayed by a blizzard or other unfavourable weather conditions. In my part of Canada it's rare, but it does occasionally happen that the police shut down the main highways, and forbid inter-city travel. On the rare occasion that this happens, the highways are shut down only for a day or so (in extreme, even more rare instances, the highway closures last for two or three days). However, if one is on a tight schedule, as you will be, a highway closure of even half a day could make a big difference.

(4) Be sure you have enough extra clothes in your car so that you would be able to stay warm in the event of a breakdown. The most important part of your body to keep warm, from the point of view of preventing hypothermia, is your head. The next most important part to keep warm is the core part of your body (chest, abdomen). Although they are not as vital to your survival, for the sake of your comfort and your ability to stay functional (and to prevent frostbite), it also is important to keep your feet and hands warm.

(5) Bring along some chocolate, energy bars or other emergency food to tide you over in the event of a breakdown.

(6) Bring along good sunglasses, as the reflection of sunlight on snow is extremely bright.

(7) Bring along jumper cables to assist in re-starting your car engine in the event of a stall in cold weather. (Here in Calgary, every rental car automatically is equipped with jumper cables, which usually are stored in the trunk (boot).)

(8) Drive more slowly on winter roads than you would on summer roads.

(9) It isn't possible to give you a winter driving lesson in a message like this. Suffice it to say, a driver who is inexperienced with icy roads has an automatic inclination to make two mistakes. First of all, he/she doesn't realise how ineffective breaks are on ice. (But ABS breaks are much better than regular breaks.) Secondly, he/she has a tendency to over-correct the steering wheel if the car skids. While there are remedies for these problems that experienced winter drivers know how to implement, the best remedy is prevention. Drive slowly enough for the road conditions.

(10) Europe is more heavily populated than Western Canada is, and European towns are closer to each other than Western Canadian towns are, so some of the precautions I've mentioned are implemented more diligently in Western Canada than they would need to be in Europe.

(11) Still, after you've read all of the above, doesn't the train take on a certain appeal?

By the way, Ronaldo, here's another tip about cold weather that has nothing to do with driving. If you inadvertently do allow your hands to get cold that they're numb, don't go into a building and turn on the hot water tap to warm your hands. You won't be able to feel if the water is too hot, and you may scald your hands. If your hands are numb, only use cold water.

Having said all this, I find winter beautiful in its own way, and if you've never experienced it I think you'll find it wonderful.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 25th, 2003, 02:16 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
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Traveling in Winter between big cities in europe through major roads is not a problem as far as your car has the proper winter equipment.
There is one important matter anyway you should be aware and is the insurance and insurance coverage.
if you are renting a car you should make sure you tell the car rental company your itinerary and check that you are properly cover.
In switzerland if your car has not got winter tires, the type "contact" while driving in major roads in snowy conditions your insurance will not cover you properly, and be sure that if you have any kind of accident, the police and others drivers involved will automaticaly check this matter. It is easy to check as "Contact tires" have snowflakes marks on the side, one two or three.
I don't know if Austria has similar laws but I will think so.
It is a good rule to check road conditions before leaving and be ready to change your schedule if conditions are bad. Refill your tank went half empty. Drive carefully and avoid night travelling if possible.

car is offline  
Dec 26th, 2003, 07:13 PM
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I'm not sure about what route you're planning to take but I know that there are roads in Switzerland that are routinely closed in the winter - so I would map out a specific route and call/email the tourist offices of the appropriate countries to make sure there will be no problems in your planned route. Given that the roads are open you still need to consider travel times. (In the fall we've been on Swiss mountain roads with rain so heavy we had to pull over for more than an hour because you couldn't see far enough in front of you to drive. Eventually the rain slacked off a little but we were still not able to go more than 20 miles an hour.)

Ordinarily I'm stongly in favor of driving but for this trip I would get some official info/advice before starting.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 27th, 2003, 12:15 AM
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For a start you should take Judy's warnings and advice as a bit over the top. You are not driving in some backwoods part of Canada for God's sake, but, from the sound of it, for much of the time on European autobahns which are kept clear of snow and ice in winter.

"Car"'s advice is more to the point: you need to have winter tyres fitted, and you should be sure the interior heating system is working properly. A strong battery is also essential, as starting the engine in cold weather is more difficult. An anti-freeze additive in the radiator coolant is also standard. But these things are almost certainly provided as a matter of course.

Really, it is quite alarmist to suggest that there is any additional hazard attached to winter driving on the roads you are proposing to use, as compared to what you are used to back home.


harzer is offline  
Dec 27th, 2003, 07:41 AM
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Did not mean to leave a negative mesage. If all you're doing is taking major autoroutes between big cities there should not be any problems - just be sure everything on the car is working before you set out. I assumed you were asking because you would be driving through the counryside and was trying to provide a little perspective.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 27th, 2003, 09:32 AM
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We visited Judy's hometown of Calgary in late April of 2003. Contrary to what you surmise, Calgary is a modern city serviced by highways as modern as any autobahn. We also had a chance to drive those highways in the snow, since Calgary was hit on April 26-27, 2003 by a late spring storm that was the worst we have ever experienced.

What I suspect might be different between Calgary and cities in Austria/Switzerland is that Calgary is bordered on three sides by prairie - near flat terrain that is distinguished not by its lack of people so much as by its lack of trees. So your 'backwoods' description was not only inaccurate, but inadvertently funny - if there had been any woods to protect the highways from blowing snow, the road crews might have had a hope in heck of keeping up with the storm.

Judy acknowledged that the roads in Austria/Switzerland were well maintained, and that her tips reflected her personal experience. I think given this her advice isn't so over the top as was your criticism of it.
Sue_xx_yy is offline  
Dec 27th, 2003, 01:24 PM
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Perhaps a word from California is in order. I drive regularly to Lake Tahoe to go skiing. During snow storms the drive on the Interstate can be very slow, and at times the highway will be closed. I have seen people skidding all over the highway because they installed chains on the wrong set of wheels. I have seen 4X4 SUVs skidded to the side of the road. In other words, if you have no experience driving in snowy mountainous conditions, consider taking the train.

Taking another tack: 1 day in Innsbruck and no days in Zurich? What is the point of the itinerary? If it is to experience snow, why not spend a couple of days in the Dolomites and try some skiing?
Michael is offline  
Dec 27th, 2003, 04:00 PM
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Thanks, Sue_xx_yy. I well remember shovelling our driveway after the snowfall to which you refer.

Harzer, although I've lived in Canada since the late 1970s, I originally come from Swaziland (between South Africa and Mozambique). I saw snow for the first time after moving to the northern hemisphere as an adult. If one has grown up in a snow-free environment, one does not automatically know the strategies for dealing with snow that cold climate residents take for granted.

I guessed Ronaldo might be from Brazil. I could be wrong about that. And, even if he is from Brazil, it's a big country with considerable variations in altitude and latitude. It's entirely possible that he's encountered snow in Brazil or, if not there, elsewhere in his travels.

Yet I also consider it to be possible that Ronaldo is like my two colleagues here in Calgary who arrived relatively recently from a hot part of Brazil, had never encountered cold weather, and were not that prepared for what it entailed.

>>>>>>Really, it is quite alarmist to suggest that there is any additional hazard attached to winter driving on the roads you are proposing to use, as compared to what you are used to back home.<<<<<<

I respectfully disagree with that. People who live closer to the equator may not appreciate how short winter days will be when they move further from the equator, how bright the reflection of sunlight on snow can be, etc. These are things you may take for granted, but they may be a revelation to an uninitiated person. Ignorance of these points rarely would be life threatening, I admit, but it could make a trip less comfortable than it might have been with some preparation.

And the need for an orientation to local conditions works the other way too. You wouldn't believe how many newcomers arrived in Swaziland assuming somehow that crocodiles had been to boarding school. Perhaps I got my habit of explaining in too much detail from the countless times I saw my exasperated mother trying to convince visitors swimming in the local river that crocodiles didn't come up and introduce themselves.

Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Dec 27th, 2003, 07:12 PM
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Yeah Harzer.
I was in Canada and they have things like electric lights, modern conveniences, paved roads, literate people, even golf courses and swimming pools. Very modern place.

Also found some very nice, polite people up there unlike some other places I have been.
dixon is offline  
Dec 28th, 2003, 02:03 AM
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Well, Judy, I grew up in a fairly warm part of the world too, Australia, and never saw snow until I went to Europe at the age of 22.

Of course I loved the snow and the way it transformed the scenery into a fairyland and so on, but I can't say it was so big deal as far as adjusting to the unfamiliar weather conditions, driving on the wrong side of the road etc. I mean you just ask the neighbours for some advice and take whatever steps are recommended. Let's face it, Europe has a hell of a lot milder winters than just about anywhere in Canada, provided you're not heading high into the Alps or into Russia or Scandinavia.

The only hairy trip I ever had was when I drove the family to Innsbruck one Xmas Eve in 12C temps and had to come home back to Wurzburg a fortnight later
in -15C weather with heavy snow on the roads - and I only had summer tyres on the car! Silly me, how right you are. The answer was to take minor roads all the way back because the low volume of traffic meant a good snow cover, which, it turned out, affords a decent grip.

I just reiterate what I said before: the right tyres, the right radiator additive, a sound battery, and good heating system, all of which should be givens in a car hired at this time of year, and one should have no trouble at all... Why make the guy nervous unnecessarily?

harzer is offline  
Dec 28th, 2003, 03:21 AM
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To put everything in perspective, it's worth keeping track of the five-day weather forecasts for the cities on Ronaldo's itinerary.

At the moment Innsbruck, the coldest, will have maxima around 0C while in Genoa at the other extreme it will be above 10C.

harzer is offline  
Dec 28th, 2003, 06:25 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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For many years we've travelled by car in January/February in most of the areas you mention.

Generally, all roads are well maintained and kept free of ice/snow at lower altitudes. As you get to higher altitudes (above ~1200 meters) you will encounter more snow.

Check the local weather forecast before you head out. The Alps/Dolomites are a natural break for weather coming off the Med. Sea. Typically, you'll see more snow on the south faces of the Alps - but also more sun too. Luckily for you, the Alps (in general) collect the most snow starting in early February.

The advice others have provided is good, i.e. proper tires, front wheel drive car (don't be tempted to rent a BMW or Mercedes). I'd add that if you are a novice snow driver, try to practice driving on snow in a parking lot, just to get the "feel" of snow and how the car handles in it.

Practial note...you will need car "vignettes" for both Austria and Switzerland. These are available at most rest stops/gas stations just before the border crossings and are required to travel on national highways in AT and CH.

Have a wonderful trip and Merry Christmas to you and yours.
mj is offline  

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