Editorial: October in the Vail Valley came in like March — with a big snowstorm
The 10th month of this year seems to have confused itself with March and barged in like a cold, snowy lion. And, as is often the case this time of year, that first good blast of winter weather seems to have caught many motorists by surprise.
It seems like it took no time at all for snow on Vail Pass to turn into Interstate 70 closures over the course of Sunday, Oct. 1, and Monday, Oct. 2. Between weather and accidents, the pass was mostly closed during the overnight hours.
No matter when that first big shot of snow comes, it seems to take people by surprise. The interstate carries a lot of traffic from points east and west, and those folks — along with newcomers from out of state — may have only limited experience driving in whiteout conditions. But if you’ve lived in Colorado for more than a few years, then there’s really no excuse. Every part of the state is subject to dreadful weather from time to time. You should be ready.
Truckers are required to carry traction chains from Sept. 1 to May 31. It would be nice to have a hard, fast rule like that for motorists, but state legislators seem to prefer the confusing, somewhat arbitrary rules that can impose and lift traction laws several times in a day.
Still, that’s what we have, so it’s up to us to be ready.
The best thing a motorist can do to make winter driving safer is to gear up with good tires. Snow tires can be expensive. But it’s money well spent in a place where it’s not unheard of to see a foot of snow on Oct. 1.
Buy the best winter tires you can afford.
Along with gear is the need to slow down in inclement conditions. It can be kind of alarming to see vehicles barreling along at 10 mph over the speed limit when roads are wet and possibly icy.
The types of vehicles usually being driven that way leads to another hint: Four-wheel-drive will get you going, but it won’t help you steer or stop. If the road ices up, then your best friends are good tires, slower speeds and long-ish following distances.
We shouldn’t have to re-learn these lessons every year — or, in the case of some, if we’ve had a mid-winter dry spell.
We’re all in this together, friends. Winter may not be here in full force, but it’s coming. Let’s all get safely through this one.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Editor Krista Driscoll, Publisher Mark Wurzer and Business Editor Scott Miller.