Let’s be clear about something.
Being a tourist in a ski town is not a bad thing. It’s easy to point the finger at tourists as the source of all things bad when you’re a local. In a lot of ways, yes, there’s a reason for the finger pointing–tourists can commit some unfortunate faux pas like tipping poorly, parking badly, and acting like going to a ski town is like going to Disney World where everyone is a paid actor and lives imaginary lives–but you can help change all that!
We’re not going to dive into the great big list, but we will start with a little help on the roads. Winter driving can be spooky, but there are ways to make it not so bad and actually quite enjoyable. Without further ado, here’s a few pointers to not look like a jackass and increase the likelihood of a safe and very fun holiday, for everyone.
1. If you’re renting a car, make sure you’re getting snow tires.
Like your ski boots, the tires are the most important piece of the driving puzzle. Summer tires + snow and ice is slicker than cat guts on linoleum. That means downright slick. Say you want to turn right from a stop onto a fairly busy road. Without the right tires (and gentle acceleration) there’s a great deal of spinning out that will likely take place. You’re probably going nowhere, or worse, you inch your nose out into the road and shake hands with the bumper of an F-150. Both scenarios are not ideal. Give your rental company a call and ask what kind of shoes they’re putting on their fleet (read: tires on their vehicles).
2. Don’t stop while going uphill.
That is, unless you have a clear and flat runway to get going again. With your nose pointed uphill, getting enough traction to get the weight of your vehicle going again may be pretty difficult. Oftentimes this will just result in spinning wheels. When you’re headed up, keep heading up and don’t lose speed. There are probably people behind you, and if you slow down, you can create some difficult situations for those in your wake.
3. Don’t accelerate too hard going uphill.
Hitting the gas while headed up a slick hill can cause your tires to spin out and all the sudden you’re headed sideways…or backwards. Plan on getting some speed at the bottom and maintain, maintain, maintain. If you need to increase your speed, add some juice ever so gradually. Driving uphill is like coming face to face with a predator–no sudden movements.
4. If you want to drive 20mph below the speed limit, make some space.
Driving slow is fine. If you’re coming from a place that doesn’t get much snow, there’s no reason why you should know how to drive in it. That said, don’t hold everyone else hostage on account of your inexperience. Usually there’s just a two lane road headed up to the mountain. If you haven’t started heading uphill yet, pull over and let the line of ten cars pass you. As they go by, give them a friendly wave. Everyone will love you.
5. If you’re renting a pickup, add some weight to the bed.
Ever seen a Fast & Furious film? Want to recreate Tokyo Drift in your truck? If you’re like me, probably yes, but not on a snowy road with lots of moving obstacles. You can greatly increase the grip on your rear tires (the ones doing the work) by adding weight to the bed. You can do this in a number of ways:
- Your in-laws
Sandbags are probably tough to come by while on vacation. Try asking your rental company if they have recommendations for adding weight to the bed. Otherwise, see options 2-4 or just make sure you’re renting a 4WD vehicle.
Finally, just know your limits.
Not knowing how to drive in the snow is fine–not wanting to admit that you don’t know how to drive in the snow is plain dumb. When you’re out vacationing, remember these tips so you can spend more time skiing and less time in ditches and/or the grills of oncoming traffic. Your future self will thank you.