Winter Maintenance

Preparing for Winter

For Aberdeenshire Council the provision of the Winter Maintenance Service is an all year round operation. 

During the summer months council officials review the Winter Operational Plan and make any necessary changes and improvements. We liaise with all other Scottish authorities, Transport Scotland, emergency services, external agencies as well as the UK Highways Agency and Department for Transport to ensure we continually improve our service and adopt best practice. We also work together with our neighbouring authorities and BEAR Scotland, the Trunk Roads Operating Company.

Before the start of the winter period, our Fleet Services team are busy carrying out maintenance and calibration of equipment to ensure all our plant is ready for the winter weather. We also continue to receive salt deliveries in order to build up our salt stock levels to a sufficient level prior to the winter months.

Winter Maintenance Operational Plan

Forecasting and Monitoring

During the winter months Aberdeenshire Council have a Winter Operations Room that allows us to receive and process information from various sources on a 24-hour basis and react accordingly.

To ensure that we have the best possible information we commission specialist weather forecasting services. In addition we have a series of ice detection sites throughout the road network linked by computer to our Winter Operations Room, providing real time information on road conditions. These information streams, combined with local knowledge and expertise allows us to decide on the most appropriate treatment patterns required across our extensive network.

A network of automatic roadside weather recording stations, linked by computer to Roads offices and the Met Office, provide up-to-date information relating to local weather and road conditions.   

Road Side Weather Station (pdf 85KB)

Aberdeenshire is a geographically diverse area, covering landscapes from mountain to sea. Weather conditions can vary dramatically across the area, so personnel and equipment are dispersed so appropriate treatments can be carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Gritting and Snow Clearing

In general terms effective Winter Maintenance consists of applying precautionary treatments to the road surface in advance of predicted snow and ice conditions. This precautionary treatment is achieved by spreading salt on roads and footways to prevent the formation of ice, commonly referred to as “gritting”. The most practical de-icing material for use on Aberdeenshire’s roads is 10mm Rock Salt, this is a graded material supplied in accordance with the appropriate national standard, BS 3247:1991. Depending on particular circumstances a salt/sand mix may also be used.

In addition to precautionary treatments it is also necessary to react to weather events by carrying out further gritting if ice reforms on the road surface and ploughing snow to clear roads following moderate or heavy snowfalls.

Precautionary treatments

These are the application of de-icers to road surfaces before the onset of freezing conditions (i.e. frost, snow or freezing rain).

The purpose of precautionary treatments is to prevent the formation of ice, or to weaken or prevent the bond of freezing rain or snow to road surfaces.

It is usually impractical to spread sufficient salt to melt freezing rain or more than a few millimetres of snow. Therefore, in advance of forecast snow or freezing rain, salt is spread to provide a debonding layer so that:

  • snow is more readily removed by ploughing
  • compacted snow and ice are more easily dispersed by traffic

It is very difficult to remove a layer of compacted snow or ice that is bonded to the road surface, so precautionary treatments are essential before heavy snowfall.

The majority of winter service treatments (and salt spread) in the UK are precautionary treatments in response to predicted frost conditions. The spread rates used are dependent on the condition predicted.

In an average winter Aberdeenshire Council would typically carry out in the region of 200 planned precautionary treatments on our Primary Treatment Network (extending to around 1,000 miles of our A and B class roads), typically at a spread rate of 10g/sq.m. This level of treatment alone requires approximately 25,000 tonnes of salt per season.

Post Event treatments

Post event treatments involve the ploughing of snow that has fallen and the application of de-icers (salt) and abrasives (sand) to ice and snow present on the road surface, or some combination of these.

Although de-icers will melt ice or snow directly, it is normally impractical to apply sufficient quantities of de-icer to melt all of a moderately thick snow layer. Ploughing is the only economical, efficient, effective and environmentally acceptable way to deal with all but very light snow. 

Priorty routes

We have to prioritise which routes are gritted and ploughed owing to the vastness of our road network.

This means that in times of severe winter weather there may be a delay before we are in a position to treat more minor roads and residential streets.

We maintain a road network totalling approximately 5420km (3370 miles) in length, 10.3% of the non-trunk road network in Scotland. It is impractical to provide a precautionary treatment to all of the roads in Aberdeenshire, therefore we have developed a Primary Treatment Network consisting mainly of “A” class and other busy roads linking our communities. This network is made up of 32 different gritting routes, operating from 14 council depots located throughout Aberdeenshire and covers approximately 30% of our total road network.

View primary treatment network maps:


Check on a map which roads we plan to grit in Aberdeenshire. For live updates on trunk roads treatment (A90 and A96 in Aberdeenshire) visit Traffic Scotland website.

Secondary Treatments

 All roads not included in the Primary Route Network may receive reactive treatment, should prevailing weather forecasts indicate that snow or ice conditions might be expected to persist for a period in excess of 48 hours.

For more information, read our Winter Maintenance Operational Plan


With regard to footway winter treatment it is important to recognise the finite resources that are available to the Council. As with the carriageway network, it is not possible to prevent frost or ice forming on all footways.  In order to target resources a hierarchy of footways has been developed in order to prioritise the busy town centre areas where there is most pedestrian traffic.

For more information, read our Winter Maintenance Operational Plan

Priority footways are categorised as F1 (Red) and F2 (Blue) as shown on the town plans listed below:

Snow Clearing

In addition to precautionary treatments of our Primary Treatment Network it is also necessary to respond to changing weather conditions, including moderate and heavy snowfalls. Our response will be dependent on the prevailing weather conditions, however our resources will be targeted on a hierarchical basis depending on the route priority.

We will endeavour to keep our Primary Treatment Network clear and therefore we will initially target resources towards our main “A” class and busy roads. This will inevitably mean that in times of severe winter weather there may be a delay before we are in a position to be able to treat more minor roads. Residential streets are a low priority in bad weather as our focus is on keeping the main routes within Aberdeenshire operating.

To assist in our winter operations agreements are in place with approximately 120 farmers. These farmers are supplied with snow ploughs by the council and are commissioned to carry out snow clearing operations on minor routes providing an important service to our more isolated rural communities.

Snow gates

For safety reasons Snow Gates are located on routes where sudden violent snowstorms of arctic severity are frequently experienced. The closure and subsequent opening of snow gates will only take place on the advice of the Council and with the authority of the Police.

The roads controlled by Snow Gates within the Aberdeenshire area are as follows:

  • A93 Perth to Braemar Road
  • A939 Tomintoul to Cockbridge Road
  • B974 Banchory to Fettercairn Road (via Cairn O’ Mount)

Snow Clearing at Lecht and Glenshee Ski Centres

The A939 Tomintoul to Cockbridge road is one of the highest roads in Scotland, the Lecht Ski Centre area is where the road is at its highest elevation and most exposed.

The Glenshee Centre is located on the A93 at Cairnwell, south of Braemar. Again this is a high route and the topography of the area provides significant challenges during the winter period.

Consequently these roads can be subject to closure following heavy falls of snow and/or when strong winds blow snow from the hills.

Aberdeenshire Council recognises the importance of winter sports to the rural economy. Due to their location, providing access in winter conditions can be challenging, however the Council works in close partnership with the ski centre operators to maintain the service.

More information on snow and weather conditions at the centres can be found on the Lecht, or Glenshee websites. 


The provision of the winter maintenance service costs Aberdeenshire Council in the region of £4 million to £9 million depending on the severity of the winter. Over the winter period we expect to use between 40,000 tonnes and 55,000 tonnes of salt and spend between £1.9 million to £2.9 million on winter plant (snow ploughs, gritters, tractors etc). Our workforce can expect to be operational for 50,000 to 90,000 man-hours.

We have in the region of 100 gritters/snow ploughs available at any given time. The majority of our fleet are not dedicated purely to winter maintenance, the lorries carrying out normal road maintenance functions when not engaged in winter operations. All vehicles engaged in gritting are also fitted with the capability of being mounted with snow ploughs. In addition we have over 50 compact tractors to carry out gritting of footways. Our own fleet is supplemented by approximately 120 farmers’ ploughs and 32 ploughs operated by Contractors.

We have in the region of 220 staff to call on for frontline services supported by 30 officials carrying out other essential roles.

The Primary Treatment Network requires 32 front line snow ploughs/gritters, with over 100 drivers on the operational rota.

Aberdeenshire Council has a salt supply contract with a UK based supplier. We have an agreement with our salt supplier to re-stock during the summer months. We aim to start the winter season with approximately 25,000 tonnes of salt in stock in our depots and have arrangements in place for additional deliveries to be made throughout the winter months. We also can hold up to 10,000 tonnes in reserve to enable us to continue to provide a service should we experience any difficulties with supply.

Transport Scotland also hold a national strategic salt supply that is available to the Scottish Councils and Trunk Road Operating Companies if required.

In a winter season we can expect to use between from 40,000 to 55,000 tonnes of salt depending on the severity of the weather.


Given the scale of financial and other resources involved in delivering the Winter Service it is not reasonable either to:

  1. provide the service on all parts of the Network; and
  2. ensure running surfaces are kept free of ice or snow at all times, even on the treated parts of the network.

Our aim is to provide a winter gritting and snow clearing service which as far as is reasonably practical, within financial constraints and resource limitations, will permit the safe movement of vehicles and pedestrians on the more important parts of the network and seek to minimise delays and accidents attributable to weather conditions.

Whilst we endeavour to provide the highest level of service, during extreme weather conditions we may not be able to:

  • Keep every road in Aberdeenshire free from ice and snow at all times.
  • Stop ice from forming - Salt requires time and vehicle activity to become an efficient de-icer. Sometimes at very low temperatures salt is not effective.
  • React to individual requests to clear minor/residential roads.
  • Prevent snow from lying. Despite pre-gritting, during periods of heavy snowfall the roads can become covered with snow even when snow ploughing is taking place.

It is sometimes impossible for roads to be cleared due to obstructions, such as parked or abandoned cars. By their nature, and the prevailing road conditions, snow ploughs can have limited manoeuvrability. This is more often a problem in built-up areas, and can also affect our work on footways.

We do not provide a 24 hour service. In general we commence operations at 05:30 am and do not normally work beyond 10:00 pm in the evening.

Resilience Network

In extreme unforeseen circumstances such as fuel shortages or epidemic illness the level of winter service is likely to be severely reduced. The resilience network is designed to allow major settlements to access the trunk road network or routes towards Aberdeen.

Resilience Road Network (pdf 11KB)

Self Help and Grit Bins

Your community can get ready for winter by agreeing what you, your neighbours and your colleagues can do on your own and collectively to minimise the effects of winter weather where you live and work. 
We would urge communities to get together and assist each other in clearing snow from paths and ensuring that the more vulnerable members of our community are assisted.  

There are no legal issues preventing members of the public clearing snow from public footways.

Grit Bins

There are approximately 1800 Grit Bins located at strategic positions within Aberdeenshire towns and villages and also larger Grit Bins at re-cycling centres in the larger towns. This resource is provided to assist with clearing/gritting public roads and footways (not for use on private paths and driveways). 

View our grit bin provisions criteria.

You access grit bin services online:

  • Request a grit bin to be filled
  • Report damage to a grit bin
  • Request a grit bin to be moved
  • Request a new grit bin

 Make a grit bin request or report damage

Alliteratively, you can phone 03456 081205 (8am to 6pm). 

Grit bin locations

View map with grit bin locations (you will need to zoom in first).

View grit bin locations by area:

To report gritting or snow clearing issues, contact our Roads team.

More advice on self help is available on the Ready Aberdeenshire site and on the Scottish Government’s Ready Winter website

Snow wardens

Aberdeenshire Council has introduced the Volunteer Snow Warden Scheme to actively support members of the local community who wish to offer their spare time to manually clear snow from publicly-adopted footways and footpaths.

The Scheme runs from approximately 1st November to 31st March. It requires groups of volunteers to nominate a snow warden leader who will be responsible for undertaking the duties assigned to them by the Scheme.

To find out more about becoming a volunteer snow warden team member or leader, please read our Snow Warden Scheme - welcome pack (pdf 339KB) within which instructions are provided on how to apply. Part of the application process includes undertaking council-approved training which can be found in the Snow Warden Scheme - training (pdf 197KB).
Snow warden leaders can return their application form to their local Roads Office by email:

Alternatively, you can post it or delivery it in person to one of the drop off points: 

Infrastructure Services
Aberdeenshire Council
Cape House
21 Seafield Street
AB45 1ED

Infrastructure Services
Aberdeenshire Council
Gordon House
Blackhall Road
AB51 3WA

Infrastructure Services
Aberdeenshire Council
Carlton House
Arduthie Road
AB39 2QP

Advice for Motorists

In winter it is important to carefully plan your journey giving consideration to the route, weather conditions and forecasts, alternative modes of travel and to make a responsible decision if your journey is really necessary. Further advice and information about preparing for severe weather is available on the on the websites of public agencies, including Police Scotland.

School Transport and School Closures in Aberdeenshire

During periods of adverse weather some or all home-to-school transport services may not operate, or alternatively operate a curtailed service depending upon local road conditions. Decisions to cancel or amend school transport services are taken by operators in liaison with schools.
For further information visit the School Closures section of our website

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