If there's a skier who does not need tips on navigating icy and snowy roads in a blizzard, it's Chris Anthony. But the Warren Miller athlete and professional big mountain skier -- who has probably logged more international trips than Bill Clinton (and had more fun, too) -- confessed Tuesday night that he "left part of his car on I-70" while driving in blizzard conditions from his Beaver Creek home to Denver. Anthony was en route to emcee Wintervention, a Warren Miller flick and it was dumping outside. More than 20 inches fell that night in Summit and Eagle counties, closing the popular interstate and causing more than one fender bender (Lindsey Vonn was supposed to be at the movie and got stuck in Vail).
Now if Chris can be susceptible to slick conditions, what does that say about the rest of us? Who hasn't experienced the stomach-clenching, white-knuckled panic of hitting ice too fast and spinning out? It feels like slow motion, but when you're halfway in a ditch or, worse, facing the wrong way in oncoming traffic, you're screwed. Fortunately I survived my own mishaps before meeting my husband, a meticulous driver who literally spent a day with me the first winter we dated driving back and forth over Vail Pass in a storm to impart his winter driving wisdom. As patronizing and annoying as that sounds, it was extremely helpful. Here's the takeaway
1. Be ConfidentNo, that doesn't translate into "be a jackass and flip the other drivers the bird." It means pay attention, anticipate what's coming next so you are proactive and not reactive. This is easier once you've mastered the rest of these tips.
2. Gear upSnow tires are essential, even when you drive a 4X4 SUV or truck. Properly working brakes are also critical, and so are windshield wipers that work. I don't care how maxed out your credit card is, make sure any vehicle you're taking into the mountains has these.
3. Stay calmIf the steering wheel suddenly seems disconnected from the car, or you feel your vehicle sliding on the ice, do not slam on the brakes, jerk the wheel, or push the eject seat button (kidding on the last one). If you start fishtailing, braking won't help. Very gently turn your wheel in the opposite direction of the car's skid being careful not to over-correct. Downshift to a lower gear and gently pump your brakes. No lead feet.
4. Brake with plenty of time Winter is not the time to speed up to slow moving traffic and toss in a heavy brake at the last minute. Start braking with at least three car lengths between you and the guy in the front. If your brakes lock, pump them and if your car's anti-lock brakes are doing the pumping for you, let off the brake a bit.
5. Watch out for the bad driversIt sounds obvious, but pay attention, be aware of what's going on around you, and look ahead more than usual.
6. Get Triple AYou won't regret it if you need a tow.
What do you do in poor driving conditions? Leave a comment here and let us know.
-- Rachel Walker