One of the joys of living in southern Spain is that at certain times of year you can be sitting on a warm beach looking up at snow-topped mountains in the distance.
A trip to test out the ski slopes of the Sierra Nevada, or simply to see some snow and build a snowman, is an attractive weekend plan at this time of year. However drivers must be aware that above certain heights the weather becomes unpredictable and blizzard and icy conditions can appear suddenly.
Experts at insurance firm Liberty Seguros have drawn up a list of recommendations for drivers heading for the mountains:
Check the forecast
If the weather is freezing, warm up the car before you drive it. If the forecast looks unsettled and changeable, wait out the storm if possible.
If you must travel, make sure you share your travel plans and route with someone before you leave.
If you become stranded in an unfamiliar area, do not leave your car.
Place reflective triangles in front and behind the car and make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked by snow, mud or any other object.
Prepare your car
It's important to have a mechanic check the condition of the following vehicle systems before heading out on the road: ignition, brakes, wiring, hoses and fan belts, spark plugs, air, fuel and emissions filters, distributor, battery, tyre wear and air pressure and check the antifreeze level.
There are some items that you should have with you at all times in a vehicle, especially when heading for the mountains.
These include a properly inflated spare tyre, wheel wrench and tripod jack, shovel, jump leads, tyre chains, tool kit, flashlight and extra batteries, reflective triangles, first aid kit, ice scraper, nonperishable high-energy foods, blankets and gloves.
Also, do not forget to have your roadside assistance number at hand.
Take extra care
Sometimes water or ice on the road can surprise drivers, even with little or no precipitation.
To avoid unwanted surprises, experts at Liberty offer the following advice: never mix radial tyres with other types of tyre; if possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold and snowy weather; do not use cruise control in wintry conditions; accelerate and decelerate slowly; increase your distance to the car ahead; if possible, don't stop when going uphill and keep your fuel tank at least half-full.