Tips for winter driving on mountain roads to start your adventures off right.
Article sponsored by BFGoodrich.
Words :: Feet Banks.
Canada is covered in roads, and between November and March the vast majority of them are covered in snow. British Columbia alone has 719,000 kilometres of road, with over 620,000 of that being unpaved resource roads used by industrial and recreational users alike.
These resource roads are one of the province’s greatest assets—they provide access to so many mountains and wilderness areas that would otherwise be unreachable without grueling bushwacks or multi-day slogs. These roads bring us to the juice, but let the record show: even the best-planned mountain adventures in the most beautiful and remote spots can turn utterly heinous if your vehicle can’t make it to the trailhead. And with increasingly crazy winter weather, bigger snow dumps, and the need to start earlier or drive farther to beat the masses to the best spots, having the correct tools and knowledge is more important than ever. And really, it all starts with your tires…
1. Get Proper Tires
Just like your hiking boots are the most important tool on a multiday mountain trek, your tires are the foundation upon which almost every good winter mission will begin. And on snowy Canadian roads, that means a tried-and-true winter-specific tire such as the BFGoodrich Winter T/A KSI tire specifically designed for precision handling and excellent braking. It doesn’t matter if you are simply ripping out to the local hill for a day, joining the throngs of weekenders heading up to Whistler, or checking out a resource road in search of a hidden backcountry hut, the right tire provides the traction, durability and control needed to navigate diverse terrain and get you and your crew where you need to be to start unlocking the adventure potential of Canada’s winter wilderness.
2. Ski as Fast as you Can, but Don’t Drive that Way…
You have tires and the stoke for an epic day in the mountains. But not every motorist out there is on the same page. On the highway, maintaining a safe speed and distance is paramount. On backroads you may not see too many other vehicles (that’s kind of the point) but this also means there are fewer people around to help if something does go awry. Most resource roads will have a posted speed but if not, err on the side of caution and drive with your lights on and, ideally, a radio tuned to the posted frequency for that road. These roads are conduits to some of the best days of our winters, but there’s nothing worse than coming around a corner to a surprise logging truck barreling down at you.
3. Carry a Shovel
Every backcountry adventurer ought to already have an avalanche shovel in their backpack, but it’s not a bad idea to chuck a nice burly snow shovel in the vehicle too. Often, you’ll power up some remote road, arrive at the trailhead and need to carve out a place to park (or come back to a vehicle that’s been snowed in by the same monster storm that gave you endless pow turns all weekend.) As well, a big shovel can be helpful if you need to stop and help another driver dig themselves out (a proper tow strap comes in handy too). Being helpful is the Canadian way, especially out in the wilderness.
4. Be Chill, It’s Winter
One of the joys of a good day in the mountains is the balance of adrenaline and calm. The peace of the forest mixed with the stoke of sliding on snow. On winter roads in the mountains however, calm is king. Sudden moves, swerves, braking, or accelerating can cause slides or skids and turn your epic day into a drag. Your tires can do a lot, but they need you to do your part as well. There is a Zen to good winter driving that comes from great situational awareness and intelligent foresight. Be the road ninja who can recognize problems before they arise and take preventative action before it’s even needed. Or to put it more simply, “Take ‘er easy out there, bud.”
5. Use Passing Lanes for Passing
In Canada, if a highway has two lanes going in the same direction the right lane is for regular driving and the left is for passing only! So drive in the right lane unless you are overtaking another vehicle. This is hugely important on busy roads like the Sea to Sky highway to Whistler because driving in the incorrect lane irritates other drivers and leads to unsafe actions like passing on the inside or following too closely. Pass on the left, drive on the right! (Because “road rage” is not a very good base emotion to start off a sweet day of ski touring or extreme tobogganing.)
Beyond that, stay clear of snowplows, consider bringing chains if you are really going into the wild (or have a two-wheel drive car), drive at safe speeds and, most importantly, get yourself four proper winter tires like the BFGoodrich Winter T/A KSI. Most of the problems on winter roads stem from vehicles not properly equipped. Enjoy those big winter adventures and snowfalls, Mountain Lifers. Adventure is out there but be sure you and your vehicle are equipped to get there (and home) safely and with great stories to tell.
For more info, check out the BFGoodrich Witner T/A KSI tires.
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