Driving in Winter Conditions

Master the Highways in the Dead of Winter

Driving confidently to a winter resort depends largely on your snow-driving skills. I learned mine at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat, Colorado. While most of us don’t have the luxury of going to Winter Driving School, there are certain driving tips that we should all use.

Before driving on these frozen freeways, we need to understand about a car’s weight transfer and grip. Grip or traction is dramatically affected by weight transfer, which occurs whenever there’s a change from steady braking. When braking, weight is on the front wheels; when the car speeds up, weight transfers to the back wheels. Think popping a wheelie.

Knowing the principles of weight transfer and grip helps to understand the yin and yang that most influence vehicle behavior: understeer and oversteer.

Oversteer is when the car turns more than you want — again, due to too much speed. When you try to slow down, weight shifts to the front, taking away grip from the back and allowing it to fishtail. Sound familiar? To correct it, steer in the direction the rear end is skidding.

Killing Speed

You should practice the following three braking methods: threshold braking, cadence braking and ABS braking. We practiced three separate braking methods after barreling down the track’s slippery straightaway. Threshold braking means applying as much pressure as possible without going into wheel lock-up. Cadence braking, or pumping, works in desperate situations. ABS (anti-locking braking system) is controlled by computer sensors that adjust brake pressure to prevent lock-up. The system pumps the brakes for you, creating rapid pulsations underfoot. My first reaction to ABS was to take my foot off the bouncing brake, but I soon learned to keep the pressure on until the car stopped. Knowing how to brake is huge because intersections and hills become polished and slick with frequent stopping and slowing.

For me, driving on ice is a lot like skiing: steering, transferring weight and adjusting speed to the terrain. And, as in skiing, I never go faster than my guardian angel can fly.

Content courtesy of SnowSports Industries America | SIA and snowlink.com.