Pro Tips For Winter Driving

Image: Rob Aseltine

Author: Snowbird

Published Date: 10/25/2023

Read Time: 4 minutes

We are all stoked for the sweet powder days filled with first tracks and dreamy turns to come. In order to experience the greatest snow on earth, you first need to verify you are equipped to drive on it. Snowbird, along with the Utah Department of Transportation, Unified Police and Nokian Tyres, want to make sure you are ready for any conditions Mother Nature and SR-210 might throw your way, so you can have an action-filled day on the slopes and arrive and return safely. Check out the following tips, tricks, laws and requirements before you hit the road to Snowbird. 

1. Be Prepared

The seasonal change from fall to winter is our signal to prepare our vehicles for snowy driving conditions. 
Before hitting the road:

  • Check tire pressure.
  • ​Check tire tread - UDOT requires at least 5/32 tread.
  • Check gas levels.
  • Check battery life.

You may be born for winter, but it’s wise to keep some extra supplies in your trunk just in case. Most drivers are used to having jumper cables in their car, but in winter conditions, you should also stash a shovel, snow brush/scraper, extra winter clothes like boots & gloves, blankets and a first-aid kit. No one has ever said “I wish I wasn’t so prepared,” so stock up and enjoy the peace of mind of being ready for any conditions you may encounter. 

Traction Law

2. Know the Law 

UDOT requires all vehicles driving Little Cottonwood Canyon to be equipped with approved snow tires from October 1 - April 30. During extreme weather, UDOT and law enforcement will determine if the traction law restrictions will go into effect. The traction law is signified by the flashing yellow lights and sign seen at the base of the canyon, by checking the UDOT road cameras or by following the alerts posted on the UDOT Cottonwoods Instagram and Twitter  accounts (@UDOTcottonwoods). When the law is in effect, be prepared to drive in winter conditions. Please note that sometimes the traction law goes into effect in the afternoon after snowfall occurs throughout the day, so keep that in mind when making the morning commute.

Clearing snow at Snowbird

4-Wheel Drive & All-Wheel Drive

Vehicles with 4-wheel (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) are required to at the minimum have mud and snow tires, often marked by the M+S or M/S. If your vehicle does not have M+S tires, you may use traction devices such as chains or snow socks. 

2-Wheel Drive

Vehicles with 2-wheel (2WD) drive must have 3PMSF tires on all 4 wheels or traction devices such as chains or snow socks. 

Vehicles without the above tire and traction requirements may be turned around and denied access to the canyon for the safety of themselves and other motorists. Before driving up to The Bird to rip your favorite line, prepare your vehicle with winter tires like the Hakkapeliitta® 10 double studded tires by our partners over at Nokian Tyres

Cliff Lodge road at Snowbird

3. Have a Safe Commute

Driving in snowy conditions is more than just having the required snow tires. How you drive can make a huge impact on your (and others’) commute. It just takes one out of control or underprepared driver to cause delays for others. Let's work together to stay educated and safe on the roads this winter.
When driving the canyon this winter, remember to: 

  • Increase your follow distance—it may take you longer to stop or slow down on icy roads.
  • ​Decrease your speed.
  • Lose the distractions like your cellphone or radio. That text message can wait. 
  • Respect snow plows and give them space to do their jobs. 

Snow covered Subaru at Snowbird

Not sure if your car is ready for winter? Here are some resources or tools you can use: 

  • Take advantage of the Utah Department of Transportation's Cottonwood Canyon Sticker Program, where experts will assess your tires and give you a sticker for your windshield, certifying that your tires are winter ready.
  • Participate in the Canyon Carpool Club. By driving to Snowbird with a friend who has a car that is prepared for winter driving you are not only safe, but eligible for specific carpool parking spots (4+) and special giveaways.
  • Catch a ride to Snowbird via the UTA Ski Bus or Visit Salt Lake's Cottonwood Connect program.

However you get here, it's a beautiful journey up Little Cottonwood Canyon. Play it safe, enjoy the drive and soon you'll be shredding the mountain. 

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