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Hard Winter Driving

Updated on January 19, 2016

Got stuck?

Anyone who's lived in it has been there.
Anyone who's lived in it has been there.

Driving in the Snow

It occurred to me to write this after helping 6 automobiles get unstuck from my driveway, and watching people stuck in the bar ditch on the side of the road. It is this last thing this hub is about.

As an inhabitant of Colorado, and having grown up in a cold climate in northern New Mexico, I've taken for granted all of the skills I've acquired in winter mitigation. So for those of you who haven't but want to live in the winter playgrounds of the Rocky Mountains, the Cascades, Sierra Nevada or the Great Lakes region pay attention because many of you from warmer regions could use a little advice in driving.

Not to be condescending, or insulting, but a certain percentage of you end up in the ditch waiting for a tow, or an ambulance. It saddens me to see that. Most of it can be prevented. Here is a list of things that can get you to the ski slopes or work on time, and in one piece.

He's not getting out till spring unless he gets pulled out.

Some Pointers

  • Have good tires. Different tires work differently in various road conditions. All weather tires can get you there but with more care and caution. New all weather tires are better than old ones, but snow tires just grip on snow and ice better. The softer rubber creates more friction. Studded tires are the best thing you can get. Not everyone can pay the nearly double price of them over all weather though.

  • Buy some chains. And don't get those cheap cables either. They just break and get caught up in the caliper. Get real chains. They'll last many years. When the snow gets deep, or if it's been packed down real good, chains can make the biggest difference in keeping control of the automobile, both laterally and moving forward and backward. They imprint into the snow to give you leverage.

  • Four wheel drive is the best for locomotion and stopping. All wheel drive is second best, and front wheel drive works as well. I commuted to a ski resort for several winters with a front wheel drive. It got me there with no accidents. Rear wheel drive can work but not as well. Again studded snow tires helps a lot there. Put some sand bags in the trunk to give the rear tires more grip.

  • Start slowly, stop slowly. Don't just jam on the gas when starting from a standstill. That'll put you in a fishtail. Same goes for stopping. The front brakes will grip better and make the rear lose control.

  • Keep a safe distance. I can't stress that one enough. It takes way longer to stop when it's slick out there. If the car in front of you stops fast, you'll crash into them. I've seen that one too many times. It's sad to see people miss work, or need medical care because they didn't follow at a distance.

  • If you're stuck in the snow, don't punch it. Hitting the gas hard when stuck only digs you deeper, and makes the snow melt and refreeze into a veneer that no tires will ever grip on. If stuck you can try digging with a shovel, putting chains down in front of the tires and jam them in under it, or put sand under it. That bag of cat litter can help. AAA memberships will get you a no cost tow. A lot of winter drivers have towing chains or straps. Don't panic. Most of us will help you because hey- we've all been there.


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