The Niedermeyers Trade AWD For Snow Tires

Snow tires 1 crop

We tend to be contrarians. While seemingly everyone else is buying Subarus or other AWD crossovers, we sold our 2000 Forester and bought a FWD Acura TSX Sportwagon. Given that we regularly drive on back-country gravel US Forest roads to go hiking, and like to go skiing, this might seem rather counter-intuitive. Or counter-logical. But I’ve never yet managed to not get through the steepest and least-maintained forest roads in the Xb, which I prefer to take for those kinds of outings. And the last two winters were a total bust in terms of snow. But not this winter, so far.

It’s been one of the wettest Decembers to date here, and cold enough to generate lots of snow, right down to a couple hundred feet above the valley floor. Up on the pass, there’s a 60-70″ base. So I did what I have never done before: bought a set of snow tires. The Forested did fine with its all-season tires and AWD. But I did not want to take too much of a risk with just fwd, so I shelled out $365 for a full set of Blizzaks at Costco for the Xb. And two days later, we headed up to McKenzie Pass, to go cross country skiing.

snow tires 2

Hwy 126 was hard packed snow/ice with some cinders scattered over it from about 2000′ elevation up. it took a bit longer than usual, as traffic was slow; 30-40 mph, once it started going uphill seriously. But it was nice to roll by the chain-up pull-outs, as we were legal with our traction tires. And the traction was great; I never felt the slightest bit of slippage. It was fully comparable to the Forester with all-seasons.

The one mile road into the Hodoo Ski Area (top picture) was pretty rough; crudely plowed with a thick base of packed snow, but some serious “pot/snow holes” and and soft drifts. Again, not a hint of loss of traction. I should have taken a picture in the parking lot, as we were just about the only non-AWD vehicle to be seen.

snow tires 3

This was hardly a real test of the traction limits, but it was an encouraging start. And it felt good to get back on the boards after two years. Next time, I’ll turn off an unplowed forest road to ski in total solitude, and see how that goes.