Snowstorm Driving Tips for Recent Denver Transplants

Denver after a dusting.
Denver after a dusting. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Today is shaping up to be a memorable one for Denver drivers — and not in a good way. After a brief warm-up blast of winter that struck on October 10, and an October 14 sequel that smacked the foothills west of the city, the snow that started yesterday and is continuing to fall steadily has turned the entire metro highway system into a picturesque mess.

As a result, the commute will be the first major road test for thousands of transplants who've recently moved to metro Denver — especially those raised in areas where a cool ocean breeze constitutes a major weather change. Many of these newcomers traveling to work by car will be facing traffic challenges of a magnitude beyond anything they've previously experienced, and if they're unprepared, the results could be ugly, as longtime locals understand all too well.

The terrified expressions of steering-wheel death-grippers let us know that trouble is on the way. We might get lucky and simply have our already long journey slowed even more by someone else's stupid maneuvers. Or, in a worst-case scenario, we could find that our vehicles, and maybe even our lives, are at risk because a person in a ride bearing an out-of-state license plate didn't realize that driving as they would on dry pavement doesn't work on routes that have been transformed into plus-sized Slip ’N Slides.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, that scenario could be common over the next few days. Such conditions are why a new law requires a minimum tread depth for tires on all vehicles, including four-wheel drives, of three-sixteenths of an inch (up from an eighth of an inch); click to get details.

After the first, slighter storm of the season, CDOT issued a series of tips that essentially put the blame for any snow-related issues on unprepared drivers — but we're taking a gentler approach. To help reduce the odds of vehicular mayhem, we present the following snowy-driving tips for non-Colorado natives. Given steadily increasing traffic volume, not to mention the many ongoing (and often delayed) major highway projects, they're more important than ever.

For newcomers, there's no shame in not knowing how to drive on snow — but for those who don't bother to learn how, there definitely is. Continue to count down our top ten suggestions.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts