Hitting the trail is about getting away from the bustle of daily life and blowing off steam. We don’t recommend wheeling alone though, particularly in the snow. So we signed up for the California Association of 4WD Club’s annual Winter Fun Festival to make sure that we did not have to resort to cannibalism. The event is held in Grass Valley, just west of where the Donner Party met their unfortunate demise in 1846.
“The event is held near where the Donner Party met their demise”
Over 250 other wheelers signed up for a wide variety of runs at the 2012 Winter Fun Festival, which ranged from scenic historic routes to bottomless snow fields. Record snowfall and frigid temperatures meant that the easy trail rides were hard, the hard trail rides were extreme, and our extreme destination on the Frostbite Extreme run was nearly impassable. In fact, well-built rigs were getting stuck just a hundred yards into the trail! We made new friends though, were treated to some good food, and had fun. Plus, our entry fees helped Cal4Wheel fight land closures in California and beyond. As Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
For more information on the 2014 Winter Fun Festival and other California Association of 4WD Club events log on to www.cal4wheel.com
What You Need
Whenever you hit the trail you need to bring such items as a spare tire, a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, a jack, and spare parts and tools. In fact, Cal4Wheel requires these items at all of its sanctioned events. Snow wheeling brings its own set of challenges though, and the consequences in subzero temperatures are worse than anywhere else. Dress in layers and wear warm boots on the trail, and remember the slogan “Cotton kills.” Stick to wool and synthetic fibers that can keep you warm even when wet. Consider adding the following to your rig before you tackle the snow.
- Snow shovel
- Sleeping bag
- Snow boots
- Hand warmers
- Thermos with soup or hot chocolate
- Extra water
- Energy bars
Style Points: How To Wheel in the Snow
Eskimos have dozens of words for snow, and wheeling on snow requires dozens of techniques. One of the most important techniques in snow wheeling is being able to read the snow. Soft, wet snow in the sun is quite different from the hard, cold snow found on north-facing slopes and in the shadow of trees. Wet, heavy snow is often the easiest to get on top of, while dry snow can cause fits once the tires start spinning and just dig. When you cease forward momentum, get off the throttle immediately before you dig holes. Back up slightly.
Also be aware of slopes and shadows, as the snow in these areas can be icy and provide dramatically different traction and flotation that the surrounding snow. If you need to go back out the same way you went into a trail, take note of the snow consistency and any slopes.
Air pressure is critical to getting on top of deep snow. Those in our group with beadlock rims were running just 2 psi of air pressure, while the vehicles with traditional wheels were limited to around 8 psi. The difference in capabilities from air pressure alone was quite dramatic.