This question is for all of you who, about a month or so ago, were complaining about the "green Christmas" and the lack of snow: Are you happy now?
There was a time when I really liked winter.
When I was a kid, I just loved it — tobogganing, building snow forts, going on a sleigh ride. It was a lot of fun.
When I got older — and got a car — I found new ways to enjoy it; skiing (downhill and cross-country). I even enjoyed driving in the winter.
Now that I’m that much older and don’t have a vehicle, I’m not so fussy about winter. Walking along snow-drifted sidewalks, waiting for the bus, windchill — there’s not too much about that that can be called "fun." But still, I don’t really hate winter.
On clear, sunny days with fresh-fallen snow sparkling like a field of diamonds, and tree branches laden with fluffy white snow, I can appreciate the beauty of winter. Even on days like today (it’s Tuesday as I write this) with a blizzard blowing I can — from the relative comfort and warmth of my house — appreciate the awesome power of nature, and the rather elegant beauty of the drifts that form in my yard.
But I don’t believe that I’ll ever again really love winter the way I did as a kid. However, since I live in the Sault, there’s no escaping the fact that winter will fill the void between autumn and spring.
I mentioned that I used to enjoy driving in the winter.
A couple of factors contributed to that enjoyment. The biggest was snow tires.
Folks, please don’t allow yourself to be duped by the marketing hype from the tire companies. "All Season" tires were never meant for winters in Northern Ontario, or anywhere in Canada for that matter.
Let’s look at some statistics. In 2005 (most recent stats available) there were 6,775,882 passenger vehicles (cars, SUVs, light trucks) registered in Ontario; a total of 18,123,885 such vehicles were registered in Canada.
By comparison, there were over 135 million passenger vehilces registered in the US. California alone had 19,437,878 such vehicles registered.
Why do I mention this? Because the tire companies are producing tires for the North American market, of which Canada is but a small fraction of the total. "All Season" tires aren’t intended for places like the Sault which gets, on average, 3 metres of snowfall per winter. They are for places which get the occasional light dusting of snow, or the rare but brief blizzard — places like Tennessee or Kentucky or Kansas — which wreaks havoc on the roads for a day or two before melting.
No, if you’re going to drive in the snow, as must be done here for (usually) about four months, then investing in a good set of four snow tires is essential.
There’s another thing that’s essential to make winter driving both enjoyable and safe: a broom.
I don’t mean one of those wimpy little five-buck jobs like they stick in rental cars, either. I mean a real broom. I used to buy an actual push broom, but one with very soft bristles, so as not to damage the paint. This made getting ALL the snow of my vehicle quick and easy.
There’s nothing worse — or scarier — then seeing someone driving along peering through some little porthole in the snow that was cleared by hand. You wouldn’t cover your windshield with cardboard and cut a small face-sized opening in it and try driving, would you? So why do the same thing with snow?
Just so you know, turning on the wipers and clearing a double arc on the windshield isn’t a whole lot better. After all, driving isn’t just about looking straight ahead. If you can’t see to the sides, you can’t see enough to drive.
Oh, and forget the "it’ll blow off as I drive" excuse. Yes, it may blow off — usually causing white-out conditions for the vehicles behind you. Occasionally, too, the snow on your roof will slide forward when you apply the brakes, covering your windshield.
Take two minutes while your vehicle is warming up and sweep it off, including the headlights, signal lights and tail lights. After all, other drivers need to see these lights, too.
It’s all about being safe.
But… that’s just my opinion.