Snow Driving Tips: Getting up the Hill

Category: Driving, Videos. Written by Grant 

Seattle is known for it’s rolling hills and beautiful mountain ranges. But come winter, those same hills turn into steep, slippery nightmares for most drivers.

However, there’s a few tips on how even a novice driver can conquer many a Seattle hill. First, momentum is your friend when trying to go up a hill. Many drivers make the mistake of driving too slow and getting stuck. It’s understandable, because a driver’s instinct is to go slower in the snow. Once your car stops on an icy hill, there’s little chance of getting it moving again.

The trick is to try and build enough speed while approaching a hill and keeping a light but even pressure on the gas. Ideally, you want your tires to spin on the snow a little bit – but not so much that your car is just spinning on ice. Modern vehicles with traction control do much better on hills because these vehicles will automatically adjust tire spin if it detects too much slippage.

We’re going to let you in on a little known secret though – one that can turn almost any novice driver into a king of the snow hill. That trick is driving in reverse! This might sound bizarre, but the principle is based on elementary physics. By driving a car in reverse up a hill, the weight of the car is shifted to the front tires. The majority of all vehicles are front-wheel drive, which means weight is now fully on the tires delivering the power. Since traction is created as a result of friction and weight, this setup provides the maximum amount of traction for a FWD vehicle.

Those driving a rear-wheel drive vehicle have a natural advantage going up a hill since they already have the full amount of traction going up a hill. That doesn’t mean you should go out and buy a RWD car yet, because the disadvantage of a RWD configuration is a much greater loss in steering control vs a FWD car.

Check out our video below that shows these techniques.

Disclaimer: Before you go driving up just any hill in reverse, we should warn you that this technique should only be applied as a measure of last resort and that there are probably laws against this on most public roads. While this technique may help your vehicle’s grip, you should be aware that it will only be effective on smaller hills that are not steep. Any amount of factors like ice, steepness, tire tread and driver skill will take far greater precedence than simply driving in reverse. In short – use care and attempt at your own risk!

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14 Responses to “Snow Driving Tips: Getting up the Hill”

  1. Beth on October 31st, 2011 6:27 am

    Another good thing to have is SnoClaws. They are great!!! I bought a set last winter and I was thoroughly impressed. Check them out at

  2. Jack T on February 14th, 2012 5:00 pm

    Steering loss with rear wheel drive? What kind of “Expert” driver wrote this? The natural 50/50 weight distribution of a modern rear wheel drive car makes for superior handling, driving dynamics, and safety, especially in the snow! Yes if you mash on the gas pedal on a turn, the rear end will fishtail, but it’s nothing counter steering can’t manage, and do this in a front wheel drive and you lose all steering and the car plows straight forward (under-steer)! How is that for “steering control”? This problem is all but a thing of the past with traction and stability control, standard on pretty much all newer cars. The only advantages front wheel drive has over rear wheel drive is a slight TRACTION (not GRIP as in Cornering ability!) advantage in the snow because of more weight over the drive axle. UP Hill RWD is better even in the snow (when going forward). On DRY pavement and even in some cases WET pavement, rear drive cars have the traction advantage because accelerating forces the weight of the vehicle to transfer to the REAR axle which increases traction under this situation. Go to and check out Tire surveys and get a good set of all season tires (with decent snow reviews), or winter tires if you live anywhere north of Chicago, and you will be good to go.

  3. marc on February 26th, 2012 11:39 am

    Great tip for driving in reverse. Much appreciated. Thanks!

  4. David on January 25th, 2013 7:33 pm

    You Rock! Out of the first 15 websites I looked at, this was the only one to mention that tip. The parking lot to my apartment complex is at the bottom of a large hill. I was hopeless for the first 10 tries. As always, the internet to the rescue! It worked like a charm!

    Once I got up, the roads were salted so I was golden from there. Thanks, you made my day!

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  6. Roy Barnes on July 28th, 2013 4:31 am

    Thanks a lot for sharing this great driving tips to get up to the hills. A lot of driver find it very tough and this blog post will help them a lot.

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  13. L.S. on December 31st, 2016 5:32 am

    It works for Rear wheel drive cars, too! I got home last night with about 1 km driving backwards. Useful tip : warm up neck before you start.

  14. guy on January 22nd, 2017 6:35 am

    Driving in reverse is only beneficial for RWD! Otherwise you fishtail up the hill, the writer seems to not be a snow driver…

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