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Epic Snow Encounter (8/1/2010)

Posted 05-02-2010 at 18:45 by Argonought
Updated 05-02-2010 at 18:47 by Argonought

A party of 7 including myself booked a Chalet in Bernex, France (32 miles east of Geneva) with the intention of driving down in the Stilo on the 8th Jan. Now practical as the 5 door may be, it canít take 6 passengers so we decided to breakup the party with 4 driving down, with as much luggage as we could carry, and the remaining 3 flying down from Bournemouth airport the following day. Everything was booked and so at 6 am on the morning of the 8th the journey started.

From the very outset on leaving Poole, the Stilo was covered in a good amount of snow & ice with the dash showing -3.5įC. The first problem to encounter on most of the journey to Dover was keeping the windscreen clear as at the very moment heat was diverted to the cabin then the inside of the windscreen froze over The importance of having a big 6 lite washer reservoir with protection down to -50įC, was also soon made clear by the amount of fluid used to keep the windscreen free of ice (at least on the outside). Despite the road conditions (many parts of the M25 were restricted to just 2 or 3 lanes) and encountering a brief period of snow crossing the South Downs we arrived at Dover in good time

Calais had a blanket of snow just like Dover and it was quite weird to see the white beaches. We made good progress down through France although the snowy landscape was never lost completely apart from a brief 50-100 mile section in which the only sign of winter was a hard frost. The temperature on the whole journey varied from -2.5įC t o -4įC

200 miles from our destination in the Alps and the snow started. Inevitably usable lanes would drop to 2 or even a single lane and thatís when we encountered the efficiency of the French snow clearing system. Big plows which look like a cross between a modern UK snowplow and a water tanker surged on to the motorway in echelon formation. Their plows in combination with the integral snow blowers cleared the entire width of motorway of snow whilst spraying salt solution from long spray bars at the rear of each vehicle. This process must have involved a huge number plows with each group of 3 being responsible for a certain length of motorway before presumably having to renew their salt solution but what was remarkable was seeing the motorway returned from snow & ice to black tarmac, even at -4įC, in such a short period. There were so many plows about it rather gave the impression of a swarm of insects.

This was of course a continuously repeating process as fresh snow would ultimately flush the salt away and quickly start to build again and we would encounter different plows in action time after time. I noticed that some of the French drivers would try to get in front of the plows, which only travel at 20-30mph, in order to get a move on as even on snowy sections itís normally possible to drive faster than a plow. As we were losing a lot of time by now I decided to copy them. Unfortunately I got a little too close to one of the plows and the whole car was plunged into darkness as one of the blowers dumped something like half a ton of snow on top of the Stilo (even felt the springs sag) Very dodgy moment but the front wipers just managed to clear the snow in time to see where I was going. Lesson learnt - you donít mess with French snow plows

The journey continued much like this, losing time and being forced to travel slower & slower until we hit the lower hills of the Alps - and disaster struck! Our snow chains failed completely laying broken and useless 8 miles from the chalet! And it was midnight!

It was decided to return to the motorway and stop at the nearest 24/7 services and buy another set of chains (all services in Alpine regions carry full stocks of snow chains just as UK services always carry washer fluid). After an 80 mile round trip we finally made those last 8 miles fighting our way up some heavily drifted tracks to our final destination at 3.30am. During those final 8 miles (chains all the way) I only noticed one car laying in a ditch which hadnít made it - and bizarrely, it was a Stilo just like mine

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This was our the final arrival point, several days later, after it has been plowed. On arrival it was a foot deep in places and drifting.
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The view the following morning (again, this is after being plowed)
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  1. Old Comment
    Most Easterly Pandas's Avatar
    A very interesting read
    Posted 08-03-2010 at 11:27 by Most Easterly Pandas Most Easterly Pandas is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Oakley28's Avatar
    Very very good read.
    Posted 10-09-2010 at 14:52 by Oakley28 Oakley28 is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Great bit of reading there, looks like a lot of fun. if I'm honest I'm surprised and almost proud that the Stilo made it
    Posted 25-09-2010 at 09:13 by jneilly699 jneilly699 is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Shadeyman's Avatar
    A nice read Argo, glad you made it in the end.
    Posted 30-11-2010 at 18:41 by Shadeyman Shadeyman is offline
  5. Old Comment
    A very enjoyable read ... Thank you kindly.
    Posted 05-03-2011 at 18:39 by Suicide_Jockey Suicide_Jockey is offline