Van Beek: Naughty and nice for the holidays
With multiple snowstorms arriving Christmas week, we just knew we had made Santa’s nice list. The mountains were covered in powder, the skis were waxed to perfection, snowmobiles were fueled and ready for adventure, kids were building snowmen, the guests began arriving. In short, it was the beginning of a perfect holiday season.
But then, the other snowy boot dropped, and we realized that perhaps we celebrated too soon. Head of the naughty list was something called omicron, and it didn’t care how nice anyone was, it was bringing its own bag of surprises. Plans were getting canceled, mandates were returning, fear was taking over the jolly, and overall, there was less ho, ho, ho, and more, oh, no, no.
So, while we still have snow falling, we must also adapt to new challenges hitting the county.
First, let’s talk snow. We all know the hazards of winter driving, yet there are times when we clearly leave our brains at home and operate on reckless instinct. That sense of adventure, which we feel on the mountain, somehow transfers to our roads, and suddenly, we find ourselves “going the speed limit” on ice. Yet, sure we have four-wheel drive, and the limit is 75 mph, so what’s the problem? It’s a conversation our deputies have with drivers, every day. Ask anyone driving the speed limit on Vail Pass.
Tires. The best are snow tires, with studs for added traction, but for many people, all-weather tires will work just fine. “Summer” tires get hard in the cold and are a bit like driving on plastic. Make sure the tires have deep enough tread and are inflated properly, to provide the widest grip. While four-wheel drive helps with navigating out of tough spots, it’s the tires on the ice that will determine traction, and whether you end up viewing your highway descent from the side of a mountain ditch. Think of ice skating; without specialized training or skates, even just standing there can land you on your butt.
Leave with plenty of gas and check all your fluids. It’s amazing how often we mean to stop off at the station before heading out, then forget, and find ourselves on the side of the road, freezing for hours, waiting for a tow.
For heaven’s sake, turn off your cruise control. It doesn’t understand sudden patches of ice.
Accelerate and decelerate very slowly: It helps if you weren’t driving fast, to begin with. If you maintain a slow steady pace, you will find that you have greater control going both uphill and downhill. Once you stop, it can be difficult to get going again, without causing the tires to spin and perhaps move you onto oncoming traffic.
If you find yourself stuck, notice whether the exhaust is covered in snow. If you run your car with a clogged exhaust, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.
With the roads being as treacherous as they are, it’s critical that we don’t drive impaired — by anything. Medication, alcohol or drugs, can cause us that momentary delay, which costs lives. Momentary distractions also come with text messaging. Don’t take the chance.
Most of us who live here know the importance of carrying supplies such as warm clothing — like an old ski suit, a hat, gloves, an extra pair of wool socks — some hand warmers, drinking water, protein bars, a flashlight and other emergency survival items.
Stay with your car, especially in a snowstorm. It’s easy to get lost or disoriented. Also, if you have slid off the road, you may have landed in a pocket of snow, and when you step out of the car, you could find yourself buried in snow over your head in an air pocket.
Always carry a first-aid kit. A simple bandage can make a big difference. Of course, check your car’s emergency kit — jumper cables, spare tire and tools, shovel, kitty litter for traction, extra car fluids and duct tape (can be handy for a quick repair).
Always have an extra cellphone charger. Even though it may not indicate cell service, often times a text message will go through, although it may take several tries.
Next, omicron. You can be anti a lot of things — omicron doesn’t care. It attacks with little regard, and while some may not even notice it’s arrived, others will be fighting for their lives. Masks, social distancing and other precautions are basically to say, stay away, whenever possible, from others. The virus is an invisible enemy, and it can travel virtually undetected. Whatever you can do to minimize the risk to yourself and others, just do it. If you don’t like certain requirements, then simply don’t go to that establishment. People have the right to use good judgment, and we simply ask that you consider the feelings of others in making your decisions.
Naughty or nice? Next year, we need to have a talk with the big guy. Stay safe and remember how very much we care for our neighbors, friends and the community we share.
James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at email@example.com.