Expert skiers live for a great snowstorm. Powder, better coverage, more open terrain, what’s not to like? Terrain closings. Storms can close challenging terrain: steeps, chutes, and gullies. The winds and visibility issues that come with storms can make skiing dangerous. Ski patrol generally closes the steepest terrain during a big storm. It remains closed until they’ve had an opportunity to do avalanche control work. This is life on the hill. But ski patrol works hard to open terrain as fast as possible. There’s nothing like rope drop, and rope drops are most common during and just after storms pass.
Your expert skier status is revoked if you’re a snowstorm hater. Take up waterskiing or golf. So why are snowstorms listed as a deadly sin? It’s non-resort related. It’s travel related. One of the most critical issues of a successful and optimized GNASA is getting from one resort to another under your terms. If the weather gets in the way, your plans can be foiled.
Why Do Skiers and Snowboarder’s Care About Snowstorms
Michael’s nickname is Captain Snowdrift. Earned from thousands of hours traveling in snowstorms and over snow-covered roads. We’ve caravanned numerous times through the Southern Rockies. Some of the journeys have involved roads covered in over 4 feet of fresh snow: yes, four feet! And no, the road wasn’t supposed to be open. But we got to the gates early on a Saturday and the department of transportation workers who should have closed the gates were probably nursing a hangover.
Michael broke trail and led two of cars through 36 miles of road that should have been closed. I spun off the road once, but was able to get back on track after spreading kitt liter and rocking my SUV for a few minutes. This was the most intense winter road experience I ever had. It highlights the point I want to make. A snowstorm while your at or nearby a resort is part of the desired experience. A snowstorm in between resorts when your drive may involve hundreds of miles of is a different story.
Snowstorms can make roads extremely dangerous and even impassable. GNASA’s can come to a screeching halt if you get stuck on the roads or have to spend the night in an unplanned location. There’s nothing more dissatisfying than reading about the three feet of fresh snow at the resort you’re trying to reach while you sit, snowed in at a hotel room, two hundred miles away.
What Problems Do Storms Pose To Driving
- Slow traveling
- Closed roads
- Accidents (yours, or other leading to slow driving)
- Poor visibility
- Iced over windshields, and inoperable windshield wipers
- If the storm or aftermath is cold enough, gelled diesel fuel
Expert Tips To Limit Driving Problems With Storms
I was extremely fortunate on my GNASA. Every storm I encountered, and there were many, occurred while I was at or nearby a resort. I drove over 10,000 miles and not once was I impaired by a storm. This was all luck.
This doesn’t mean that on short drives from my accommodations to the mountain I didn’t see lots of snow-related accidents. I saw thirty or more. These included trucks, cars, buses, and vans. It’s easy to go sideways on ice-slicked roads.
Our ski adventure nature wants us to get to the resort we’re going to as soon as possible. Driving slow doesn’t come naturally. It’s a GNASA skill and one that will serve you well. Getting safely to your resort destination is delayed gratification worth ensuring. Drive slowly in snowstorms. One accident can ruin your GNASA.
Create Flex Travel Time
I planned my GNASA with a minimum of two nights, and often up to four or five, at each resort location. I would check the weather, for the resort I was at and the one I was going to next. Based on weather forecasts I would make decisions about staying or leaving. If there was a big storm at the resort I was at, I would consider staying an extra night. I’d balance the benefit of staying and skiing powder, or leaving on time, or early to avoid bad driving conditions to make it to my next destination.
Book Stays Over Weekends and During Non-Holiday Periods at Popular Resorts
Part of creating flex travel time was the ability to extend a stay at a resort. I found this easiest at popular resorts when I had booked over a weekend (Friday and Saturday nights). Weekends booking rates tend to be high. Weekday bookings are easier to make. If I wanted to extend a stay or arrive earlier, it was easier to do on weekdays. Having booked weekend dates, extending or arriving early fell on weekdays or Sundays: days in less demand. It’s hardest to change bookings during holiday periods.
Drive During Prime Daylight Hours
My goal is to drive during the day, starting as early as necessary to reach my destination before nightfall. I’ve found that during the day, temperatures are usually warmer, its easier to see and roads are better tended. The warmer it is, the less likely it is that roads ice over. The easier it is to see, the more likely it is to avoid obstacles. Most importantly, roads are better maintained during the day. In fact, in many cases, roads are not plowed during the evenings. All things equal, its always easier to get to your destination in the daytime.
If the weather forecast was good, and the resort I was at had good skiing, I’d ski a half day. If the weather forecast was great and the roads were clear sailing, I’d even spend the day skiing andtravele at night.
Drive Main Highways
Not all roads are tended to equally. In the United States, major interstates are give one and two digit numbers (I-5, I-90, etc.). Even numbers run East-West, odd numbers, North-South . Major federal interstates are treated the best. In the Rockies, Interstate Highways are scarce. That means you’ll likely be relying on State Highways and Routes. If a major ski resort is accessed via these highways and routes, they are likely plowed frequently. The worst kept roads are State Routes and Highways that don’t support major ski areas or towns. These are often prioritized lower than other rods and highways.