Snow Wheeling-Precautions

by Bill Andrews, Colorado Crew


The first article of this series, Snow Wheeling–An Introduction, identified the three remaining articles on this topic: precautions, equipment, and techniques.  This is part two, Precautions.  In this article, we will cover some of the precautions you should consider and employ to be ready to safely wheel in snowy conditions.

First, dress in layers. Start with an inner layer of light, wicking fabric such as silk or one of the many synthetic products now on the market. Avoid cotton as it retains moisture and will not keep you warm if it becomes wet or damp. Next, add a couple layers of insulating fabric such as wool or a synthetic equivalent. Finally, you want an outer layer of water-resistant or breathable waterproof fabric such as treated nylon or Gore-Tex. Add and remove layers throughout the day as needed. You want to be comfortably cool, not cold and certainly not hot.

Bring about a day’s worth of extra food and water, per person, in case you get stranded. A small camping cook stove can be handy but is not absolutely necessary. Also, bring additional clothes and blankets/sleeping bag so you will be able to stay warm if you must spend the night. If you do get stranded, stay with your vehicle and use it for shelter. If you run the engine for heat, make sure the exhaust tailpipe is clear of obstruction in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Never go alone. You will get stuck and you will need someone to pull you out. Also, in an emergency, if one vehicle breaks down or is stuck beyond recovery, you can squeeze everybody into the second vehicle and get back to civilization. Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back. If you are seriously overdue, they can contact the authorities and initiate a search and rescue.

Finally, be sure that the area you are going to is open for winter travel. Not all 4×4 roads and trails with seasonal closures have gates. It is your responsibility to make sure you are in a legal area. Even if the trail is legally open, avoid trails that are popular with XC skiers and snowmobilers. We won’t make any friends for our sport tearing up one of their favorite places to go. Pick a trail that is not too steep and does not have shelf roads. Conditions will be slippery so steep hills will be extremely difficult with a high potential for rollovers. Also, sliding off a shelf road could have disastrous consequences.

By taking these precautions you can keep a winter adventure from turning into an ordeal or, even worse, a tragedy.