With its proximity to Colorado’s Front Range, Copper Mountain is an easy choice for travelers looking for a quick ski getaway to the Rockies. Just 75 miles west of Denver, Copper offers world-class skiing and riding on its naturally divided terrain as well as activities for the whole family to check out, including the Rocky Mountain Coaster, tubing and the Woodward Barn. Even with the mountains so close, it can be challenging to navigate a winter drive to the resort. Anyone who has made the trip to Summit County during a winter storm knows that the drive can be intimidating and cause frustration if you or other drivers are unprepared for the conditions.
If you are not an experienced winter driver (and even if you are), it is important to make sure both you and your vehicle are prepared before you hit the road! The more prepared you are and the more vigilant you are on the road, the less chance of accidents occurring and your ski vacation remaining in-tact.
Here are some helpful winter driving and vehicle prep tips to help you arrive safely at Copper Mountain this season.
Before you hit the road, prepare!
- Winter tires are a must and fulfill the requirements for safe travel under Colorado’s mandatory passenger traction law! You can never underestimate the benefit of a good set of winter tires. Winter tires are essential for mountain travel from October to May when Colorado’s passenger traction law is in and allows for extra grip on the roads when traction may be limited because of snow or icy conditions. There are so many options to choose from when it comes to picking a set of tires. Check out the different types of winter tires available and recommendations for tires from our partners at Nokian Tyres.
- All-Weather Tires – Great for winter and summer use, all-weather tires work well in winter conditions and don’t have to be switched out between seasons. For an all-weather option the Nokian WR G4 tire ensures fuel savings and predictable grip all year round on wet and snowy roads, perfect for city drivers making weekend ski trips to the mountains. Don’t confuse all-weather tires with all-season tires – the latter are not approved for use in wintry conditions.
- Studded Winter Tires – In certain states, studded tires may not be allowed all year, but in Colorado, studded tires are legal year-round. Studded tires are a great option if you are an inexperienced winter driver and want a little extra traction on the roads. Drivers looking for uncompromised winter safety will find comfort in the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 studded tires. Double studs provide for optimal lateral grip on snowy/icy surfaces and winding mountain roads and are recommended for hybrid and electric vehicles.
- Non-Studded Winter Tires – Non-studded winter tires are also designed with special tread with a softer rubber that can withstand freezing temperatures and keeps the rubber flexible which is important for gripping the road. Non-studded winter tires are another good option for mountain town locals who frequently drive in winter conditions. Nokian’s Hakkapeliitta R3 non-studded tire provides a great sustainable option to increase fuel savings and includes the highest safety characteristics.
- Check your tire pressure and keep it high! Your tires can deflate by as much as 1 psi for every 1-degree drop in temperature. The lower the pressure your tires have, the more friction they create with the road which increases the risk of going flat, which is something to avoid if the weather’s turning. Let Nokian show you how to check your tire pressure.
- Review Colorado’s traction laws. As of 2019, Colorado has a mandatory passenger traction law that is always active on parts of I-70 during the winter months including between Morrison and Copper Mountain. As part of the traction law, all vehicles are required to have winter tires, mud and snow designated tires or tires with an all-weather rating to drive and all tires must have a 3/16-inch tread depth. Vehicles that are 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and have tires with 3/16-inch tread depth also qualify for safe travel in challenging conditions. In-state and out-of-state visitors should review the law ahead of time and make sure their vehicle meets requirements. If a motorist is found to have inadequate equipment, they could be fined anywhere from $130 to $650 if they are blocking the road!
- Keep up with current road conditions. Weather conditions in the mountains are always changing. Look ahead before you make your drive into the Rockies to see if there are any road closures or slow downs as a result of the conditions. For the latest travel forecast to Copper visit, Goi70.com.
- Pack extra supplies in your car for emergencies. On the off chance you are stranded or stuck on the road overnight because of the weather, it’s good to plan ahead. That means when visiting the mountains in the winter, make sure you have extra food and water in your vehicle. It also helps to keep a pair of boots, gloves and maybe even a sleeping bag with you if you anticipate traveling in poor weather conditions.
While on the road…
- Drive for the conditions. Putting the pedal to the metal in the middle of winter will only spell trouble for you and your fellow drivers. If it is snowing or the roadways are slick, you need to slow down and evaluate your driving to make sure it is safe for the conditions. That includes making cautious decisions about accelerating, braking and changing lanes.
- Leave plenty of room between you and other drivers. When the roads are slick you want to give yourself plenty of time to react in case a collision or accident occurs in front of you. Leaving space between you and the driver in front of you will allow you time to slow down or stop and lessen your chances of causing additional damage.
- Keep your focus on the road. Winter driving can be challenging and scary at times, requiring your full attention. So, limit distractions from devices or other passengers in the car during a winter drive!
- Calm steering is key. Braking hard or making abrupt steering wheel corrections in winter conditions may cause you to swerve or lose control of the vehicle. So, make sure you avoid panicking, stay relaxed and look for a safe place to veer if you find yourself losing control of the car.
These tips have been recommended in part by Nokian Tyres and the Colorado Department of Transportation.