Top five ways not to crash while winter driving

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It's a hallowed skiing tradition, but probably not a favorite one: Miles and miles of skitards saddle up and drive into a blizzard, risking life, limb, and Subaru for a shot at once-in-a-season freshies. This results in highway pileups and automotive carnage galore -- but ya gotta earn your turns, right?

This past weekend, Steamboat, Summit County, Vail, and practically all of the San Juans got blasted with snow in varying amounts, bringing out the hordes in force. While on return over Rabbit Ears Pass, I noticed many a fool getting pwned by the white stuff, despite the fact that most of those drivers have likely lived here for at least a winter. So, in honor of the FJ Cruiser high centered on snow-covered boulder, I present to you my top five things not to do while winter driving.

1. Do not mistake 4WD for a deflector shield. Just because you've got all four wheels revvin' doesn't mean your Subaru can alter the laws of physics. Any traction gains are pretty well crushed when you take a sharp turn on polished ice at 75 mph, and slamming on the brakes just means you'll soon be doing a terrestrial version of the Top Gun flat spin. Which brings us to ...

2. Do not ride your brakes going downhill. Modern man may have progressed beyond shifting in most cases, but you've still got all those crazy numbered gears for a reason. Don't get me wrong -- when you pull a wicked 180 or 360, I'm just as delighted to see your face as you are to see mine, but let's investigate trying the "O/D Off" option next time, shall we?

3. Do not pass two cars and a semi in a whiteout. Is Kremmling really all that great? And even if it is, can't you wait 15 minutes extra to get to Shake N' Burger? If you had, we'd both be narfing on a bacon burger with jalapenos. Meanwhile, you'll have to make do with that half a Nature Valley you found in your pocket from last season while the wrecker ice fishes for your Honda.

4. Do not forget to clean the snow off your roof. Most of our vision already consists of a powdery blur--the last thing we need is for you to shed the iceberg that sunk the Titanic in itty bitty pieces. Smokescreen can be very useful and fun, but only for James Bond or possibly Michael Knight.

5. Do not practice putting on your chains at the top of a pass, in the middle of the road. Hey, it's your funeral. Think you can read my license plate in a whiteout? "Gabe? Who's Gabe? I saw a mule deer, officer."

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Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


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