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Winter is coming. For some, that means hunkering down and hibernating. For others, it means finding new and even more thrilling ways to explore the great outdoors.
One way to experience the winter wilderness is to leave the roads behind in favor of taking on the off-roading trails. But just as driving in winter is different from driving in the summer, off-roading in the snow requires a whole different set of skills. Our winter off-roading tips will help you make the most of this season.
Get the Gear
Getting stranded is bad; getting stranded when the temperature is below freezing is worse. So, it’s even more important to be loaded up with gear in the winter. This means having the necessary recovery equipment. For example, you should always carry the following with you off the road:
- Recovery straps
- A shovel
- Sand or cat litter for traction
You also want to make sure your vehicle has snow-friendly modifications on it, like tires built specifically to the snow. Snorkels also may help benefit your ride by helping you to navigate particular thick snowdrifts.
Be Prepared for Emergencies
Don’t just focus on off-roading gear when you’re packing the car. Make sure you have emergency supplies in the event you are stranded, such as extra lights, blankets, and hand warmers. Also, be sure to inform other people where you are going and how long you will be gone.
Read the Terrain
If you grew up playing in areas where it got colder in the winter, you know there are different types of snow. Some snow is soft and powder; other kinds are thick, perfect for packing into snowmen or snowballs. Before you start down a trail, you should determine what type of snow you’re driving on.
For instance, freshly fallen snow will have a different impact on the amount of traction and handling of your vehicle compared to long-packed, slushy snow. Until you’ve built an intuitive sense of how your car responds to different terrains, start slow in new snow scenarios.
Watch Your Brakes
Whatever the type of snow, one thing to keep in mind when off-roading in the snow is braking. As with street driving, brakes tend to fail when you hit them too hard in the snow. And antilock brake systems don’t always work since the traction isn’t always consistent.
Be sure you hit the brakes softly when possible, especially if you find yourself swerving. In this circumstance, also keep in mind that you should avoid turning against the swerve, and lean into it instead.