Top Ten Snowy-Driving Tips for Non-Colorado Natives

Additional photos below.
Additional photos below.
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Spring storms following long periods of mild weather bring out the worst in lotsa Denver-area drivers.

And that's particularly true for people who didn't grow up driving in snowy conditions.

Plenty of them do better than some native Coloradans let on during their first winter here, because they're geared up for the challenge and super-focused on not being a danger to themselves and others. But they can be less attentive when tough conditions return.

Hence, the following tips, which are modified from ones we first offered in 2013 — and which are good for those born in Colorado to remember as well.

Particularly on a day like this.

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Number 10: Slow the hell down

Those warnings about decreasing your speed when roadways are wet, snowpacked or icy shouldn't be dismissed as the suggestions of finger-wagging octogenarians who have seemingly forgotten what the gas pedal does. There's this little thing called physics that tells us that the faster you go, the farther you're apt to slide if you hit a slick spot. Really. We're not making this up.

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Number 9: Speaking of physics, SUVs aren't immune to it

Rides like Escalades can roll over a lot of things, but not the laws of science. In fact, if you start to slide in a giant sports-utility vehicle, the extra size and weight are apt to get you in trouble faster than if you were piloting a Mini Cooper. And that's not to mention the issues some SUVs have with rolling over and/or flipping. While you may feel badass zooming by everyone on a snowy day, they'll get the last laugh if you're on your top a minute or two later.

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Number 8: Slamming on your brakes can be totally pointless

Trying to mash your brake pedal through the floorboards only works if you're Fred Flintstone, especially on snowy pavement where you've got no traction. If you've got anti-lock brakes, steady pressure's the ticket. If you have standard brakes, pump them. And do it gently rather than pretending you're crushing a zombie's skull on The Walking Dead, or you'll be the walker — because your car will be too crinkled up to drive.

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Number 7: Black ice is actually a thing

So you look at the roads ahead and don't see any snow on them even though there's been precipitation recently and it's freezing outside. Time to peel out? Wrong. There's a damn good chance the surface is covered with a thin sheet of ice capable of turning your car into the equivalent of a hockey puck. And it's no fun when you put that particular biscuit in the basket.

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Number 6: Signs like this one aren't there for no reason

It's not a myth: Bridges and overpasses are frequently icier than the roadway on either side of them. For that reason, executing a lane change or traffic maneuver on a bridge that might work fine on the rest of the interstate could end with you getting a face-full of air bag.

Continue to keep counting down our top ten snowy driving tips for non-Colorado natives.

 

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Number 5: Get low

When it's snowing like crazy and your visibility is for shit, you're going to be tempted to switch on your brights — and after you do, you'll be blinded by the light reflecting off the snow and bouncing right back at you. Use the low beams, and feel free to leave them on until you get to your destination — which you'll have a lot better chance of reaching if your eyes are actually working.

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Number 4: Sudden turns can turn into sudden wipeouts

In best-case scenarios, you actually know where you're going — meaning you know when you need to turn and can start doing it early, rather than at the last minute. So when the weather's dicey, round your friggin' corners — unless you'd rather smack into them.

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Number 3: Be ready for a skid

There continues to be debate about whether steering into a skid is the right thing to do or the key ingredient to an unintended 360. But we defer to the MasterDrive instructor who contacted us after the original publication of this post. His advice is simple and easy to remember: "Look where you want to go and steer in that direction."

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Number 2: It's actually important to be able to see where you're going

On days when it's snowing sideways, visibility is often more figurative than literal — and when that's the case, you can't continue to drive as you would on a sunny day, when your knowledge of your usual route makes the process almost automatic. Don't take anything for granted, or you'll be sorry — as will everyone else around you.

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Number 1: Be patient

When the road conditions are lousy, it's going to take you longer to get where you want to go. So deal with it. Leave earlier. Or don't, and be cool about getting there a few minutes after you'd planned. A snowstorm's a great excuse for showing up late, and Coloradans are generally very understanding when it happens. You'll realize that after you've been here for a few more years.


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