Vail Daily column: Let’s talk traction | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Let’s talk traction

the Vail Daily Editorial Board

The Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for Avon and Vail on Monday. It may be snowing as you read this.

The forecast was apparently well-watched, as local tire shops quickly filled up with requests for either new tires or customers coming in for their semi-annual summer/winter tire swap.

But this week’s forecast also coincided with a couple of interesting developments in the continuing effort to ensure Front Range drivers have the right equipment for their weekend ski trips.

These steps were taken in the wake of monster storms in early 2014 that snarled Interstate 70 for hours on end.

The first development is the return of a bill that defines the requirements for “winter traction” devices motorists need while driving on I-70 through the mountains. The bill clarifies existing legal definitions of adequate tires and other equipment and requires the Colorado Department of Transportation to educate drivers about those requirements.

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democrat of Steamboat Springs who represents Eagle and Routt counties, and Rep. Bob Rankin, a Republican from Carbondale.

That bill passed out of the Colorado House of Representatives in the 2015 session but was ultimately derailed in the Senate, bafflingly enough, by Republican Randy Baumgardner of Winter Park.

Go figure.

For its second shot, the bill this week received the blessing of the Legislature’s Transportation Legislation Review Committee, which might give it a better shot at success.

The bill might help remind motorists of the need to be prepared before venturing into the mountains in the winter, but it wouldn’t provide its legal boost until the winter of 2017 at the earliest.

For this winter, the I-70 Coalition — a nonprofit consortium of local and regional governments and businesses along the corridor — this week announced it had struck a deal with the distributors of a device called the Auto Sock to provide those devices at several stores along the corridor, including a location in Vail.

The Auto Sock is a reusable fabric tire cover that appears far easier to install than tire chains. The socks aren’t cheap, but the asking price— about $100 per pair — is far less expensive than new tires, or the price of being towed.

Back when far few people ventured into the mountains on winter weekends, those who did venture out — in cars and trucks far less suited to snow driving — were usually well-equipped with snow tires, tire chains, shovels and other essentials. Those are still good things to have. But a reminder to have the right gear, combined with easy availability of relatively inexpensive go-in-the-snow devices, might help ease the traffic jams sure to come on future Sunday powder days.