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Firing Order, January 2017: Make Winter Fun

Posted in Features on December 16, 2016
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I have no clue why, more than three decades ago, I thought it would be a good idea to leave my 4WD International Scout II in the barn and drive my rust-bucket beater Toyota Celica to work in the middle of a wicked Midwest snowstorm. The 53-year-old me is astonished by many of the decisions made by the 20-year-old me. Less than 2 miles from home, while attempting to use speed as a substitute for 4WD, I dramatically put the Celica in the ditch after some impressive fishtails, overcorrections, undercorrections, spins, and slides. After a trudge back to my barn, I lit the Scout’s 345ci V-8, levered the Dana 20 T-case into 4-Hi, and eased the winchless rig into the bumper-deep snow. I drafted my brother-in-law, who was home from school because of the snow day, to drive one of the vehicles home after my planned rescue of the Celica. Young and apparently very stupid, I thought the drive to the Celica would be a great time to demonstrate my exceptional snow driving skills behind the wheel of a 4WD. It was impressive, I have to say. The Scout was pulling strong and snow was flying everywhere as I piloted the rig down our deeply drifted one-lane country road. My brother-in-law was awestruck by my skills for sure. Problem was, as we neared the Celica I realized too late that I was coming in way too hot. The closure rate was disturbing. I abruptly lifted off the throttle and mashed the brakes, which caused the Scout to shoot off the road to the passenger side and securely plant itself in deep snow right next to the Celica. It took a tractor to drag ’em back onto the road.

Many of us wheelers have “snow-wheeling stories.” More than three decades have passed since that winter day I stuck two vehicles at the same time, and since then, I’ve done a lot of driving in the snow and arguably gotten better at it. In addition to untold hours of plowing and on-road commuting in the Upper Midwest, I’ve wheeled off-road in the Idaho mountains, Michigan forests, Colorado high country, New Hampshire woods, rolling Wisconsin terrain, Illinois backcountry, and an array of other places. These experiences have been a blast. The difficulty level of snow wheeling varies depending on a variety of factors, including the density of the snowpack and the overall depth. Some snow types require patience and light throttle to tiptoe along without losing traction while other types require horsepower and speed to push through. Tire selection is also important. I’ve had terrible experiences with a wide flotation tire during high-speed on-road slush-and-snow driving, but I’ve wished for a wide flotation tire when crawling on top of very deep snow.

Snow season is right around the corner for many of us, so in this issue we take a look at some cool snow and winter stuff, including where to find snowy organized trail rides. These snowy trail rides are not only fun and break up the monotony of winter, they also offer the opportunity to hone driving skills in slick conditions. Get out, make winter fun, and enjoy the snow in your 4x4. And after you’ve done all that, email us some info and a couple of pics from your snow foray because we’d love to hear about it.

Ken Brubaker
ken.brubaker@fourwheeler.com

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