White Knuckling

Classic New York State Thruway

You know- when you are a kid, you are fearless. Take me for instance. Whenever there was a snow day at school, I would jump into my mother’s ’64 Buick Special and head to the mountains. I threw some sand bags from the garage into the trunk, and headed out with big honker snow tires on the back. Rear wheel drive in those days. I remember taking it to Canaan Mountain, West Virginia for my very first PSIA clinic. What a ride on those backcountry roads. My dad called it ” The Yellow Bomb”. My mother always laughed and said” too much snow to go to school, so you drive to the mountains?”

The Yellow Bomb

Fast forward- after college I taught skiing at Sugarloaf , Maine and there were some harrowing drives to the ski area in Bob Irish’s VW which I used for the winter, staying in his cabin in Stratton, Maine. 40 below straight temps were not uncommon and I had to heat the oil with an electric dip stick otherwise the bug would not turn over. There were many subsequent drives on the New York Thruway over the years, going to Vermont and the Adirondacks to visit friends and attend the many PSIA clinics after passing my certification for ski instruction at Killington. The difference was I got smart and started to drive four wheel drive vehicles. They inspire confidence but they slide just like any other car. My first one was an orange International Scout which was a heavy bucket of bolts that seemed to always have some kind of mechanical issue. But it generally got me where I wanted to go.

I had a tow strap in the Scout and pulled many a stranded motorist out of a snowbank including the Honorable Richard Caliguiri – Mayor of Pittsburgh. He thought I was some kind of Somerset special and gave me a brief nod of approval before driving off and leaving me with my strap and a soiled ski school jacket.

After many ” white knuckle ” experiences behind the wheel of my 4 wheel drives, I got pretty comfortable navigating the roads of New England, Pennsylvania and Upper New York State. Recently my Jeep has served me well but I find as I get older, my driving has become more conservative. I rent 4 wheel drive pickups on ski trips and sometimes the tires are suspect. I have driven many times on I-70 in Colorado in whiteouts, and on 395 headed to Mammoth, the roads can become like driving on a mirror. My white knuckling on the steering wheel is the subject of laughter with my friend from Vermont and the other from Tahoe who ask if we will eventually get to the ski area say in June? My wife prefers 4 wheel drive SUVs on trips, but the boys prefer the pickup. The Mt. Rose Highway in Tahoe has been the site of many a harrowing night’s drive with epic snows either closing the roads or sending us on an alternate route.

Sierra Snow Conditions
The Sportmobile

When my friend Eric offers to drive his Sportsmobile, I am most grateful knowing I will not have to fight the roads with a rental pickup. We will get there safely and even when there are two foot snows during dinner, we will always get back to where we need to be. This is some kind of vehicle. Eric and his wife Helen take it all over the west.

So, I am not as fearless as I was in the 64 Buick or even the Scout, the Blazer, or the Montero, which went sideways one day down Highland Ave with my young son in his car seat. The blood eventually returned to my knuckles about an hour later in that storm. But the subsequent vehicles, including my current Wrangler, have served me well even though I take my time so as not to end up in the median or on a guard rail. Driving in the snow is not for the faint of heart, but with a lot of experience, and a certain amount of earned respect, I am a pretty good navigator of all things winter. Even though I may not make it to the destination until June. LOL!! Thanks for reading and drive safely this winter.

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The Jeep Wrangler

15 thoughts on “White Knuckling

  1. Janet Lee McCloskey says:

    You are a very good & cautious driver !! Even though I always want you to hurry up when we are late! LOL

  2. skimeister says:

    Great read Pat. Triggers many similar memories. Have only experienced snowbanks that high twice. Was snowed in at Snow Ridge Ski Area in Turin NY when taking the USEASA exam for the White Badge. We could travel within town and to the ski area but could not get off of the Tug Hill Plateau if we wanted to. The farmers were dumping their milk since the roads were plugged tight. When we left on Saturday all we could see above the snowbanks was the cross arms on the power line poles. The other time was at Gstaad and Les Diablerets in Switzerland. The snowbank was more than twice as high as the VW Mini Bus we rented.

  3. oclv454 says:

    Like the license frame on your Jeep!

  4. oclv454 says:

    I think you marked your underwear on one of our drives to Kirkwood in the Volvo…..,

  5. Great tale, I would wait at County Line for one of the plows to go by and follow it in the morning on my way to open the resort. I didn’t care if I was looking at the back end of a anti-skid disbursement system, it was reassuring to follow that big blue truck with the N on it to the front gate. Missed the escort many a night after closing and coming down in the dark and a storm. Was glad I was the only nut to be out in those conditions. Just turn the flashers on and creep down the hill.

    We just had a freak snow storm here in Dallas. Another day and usual road conditions back in PA. They shut the city down here. Guess they just don’t like that white knuckle ride down here. LOL

    Sounds like you are having one great season. Life is good here, don’t miss the skiing, miss the skiers.


  6. Art Bonn says:

    Great post! Crazy driving in crazy amounts of snow! It’s ok to risk your life, you’re going skiing!

  7. cvtskiier says:

    I’m taking you over Ing any day!

    Sent from my iPhone


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