The mountains of Colorado are no strangers to heavy snowfall: between October and April those fluffy white flakes are fair game and can sometimes keep even seasoned off-roaders stuck inside. But if you willing to play it safe, winter can be a great time to explore the 4×4 trails in the area and can offer a totally different perspective and different set of challenges for you to conquer. If you’ve never snow-wheeled before, be extra sure to follow these tips and chat with a mechanic at your Fort Collins auto repair shop before making the trip out. You may also want to research some used truck parts that can help you withstand the weather without draining your bank account–components take a lot of stress in snowy conditions.
From the Western Slope to the Wyoming border, there are dozens of wilderness areas that are open year-round and can provide safe play even with fresh snow. Grab a few buddies, bundle up, snag some snacks, check your emergency auto parts in Fort Collins, and be on your way! Here’s how to keep your snowy adventures fun and to make sure you return home safe and sound.
Be thorough with your pre-ride checklist.
While every off-road trip should start with a quick run-through of your vehicle and planned packing, the snow and cold require a bit more seriousness here. Make sure you check all your fluids, air pressures, and electrical conduits, as these are most affected by weather extremes. And if you don’t already have the right tools in your kit bag, head down to your Fort Collins auto repair shop and pick up what you need to make repairs on the fly.
As far as your personal affects go, pack more than you think you may need. That means extra warm gear, gloves, hats, sunglasses, socks, emergency blankets, and waterproof outerwear. Also, bring along energy-dense food and lots of clean water, as winter off-roading can sap your reserves and is much slower going than summer trailing. Just be sure to pack lightweight items, as a heavy vehicle will have a much harder time staying on top of the snow.
Learn how to read the snowpack.
People who ski, snowshoe, and snowboard are familiar with all the different types of snow and their respective properties, and if you want to snow-wheel you should read up as well. Know that wet, heavy snow provides a different pack than icy melt or fresh powder does, and everything changes depending on which side of the slope you are on and the angle of the sun. In general, heavy wet snow is easiest to climb over and provides traction and stability, while fluffy powder can spell trouble. Being able to anticipate how your vehicle will handle based on the snowpack is crucial to getting through safely and no amount of new or used truck parts will make up for a lack of knowledge here.
Pay attention to the weather reports in your desired trail area: how much snow have they gotten recently? Has the temperature stayed below freezing, or are there portions of the snow that may be partially melted and softened by the heat? And once you’re out on the trail, be aware that bumps and slopes in the snow may indicate dangerous rocks or other obstacles hidden below.
Become a master of air pressure.
Arguably one of the most important parts of 4-wheeling is the contact with the ground- the types of tires you use and their internal pressures determine a lot of the handling, control, and traction you experience. When traversing snowy trails, you want as much tire contact with the snow as possible, meaning your tires should be wide and flexible and you should run a very low air pressure during the ride. Just think of how snowshoes and snowmobiles are made- they have a very large surface area in contact with the ground at all times–and try to replicate this with your own tires while snow-wheeling.
It is important to have the tools and knowhow to alter your tire pressure while away, as you should run much higher pressures on roads than on trails. If you don’t already have a portable air source, stop by your favorite store selling auto parts in Fort Collins, and pick one up. There are electric, compressed CO2, and belt-driven options, all easily portable for off-roaders. Don’t lower your tire pressure until you are on the snowy trail, and be sure to re-inflate before driving home to avoid irreparable damage!
The sparkling white hills and valleys can be amazing playgrounds if you are rightly prepared, and just a small amount of homework can get you ready to conquer the snow safely and responsibly. So stock up on that hot cocoa and make the most out of this winter weather!