Snow Tire Shootout
Nov 11, 12 | by: Bruce W. Smith
KINGS OF COLD
Colorado’s frigid temps and pristine snow conditions make the perfect proving ground to pit three top-selling pickup snow tires tread-to-tread
By Bruce W. Smith
(Photos by the author and Larry D. Walton)
Deep snowdrifts, a white dust blowing sideways across a silvery sheen of pavement, plow-shod pickups, and a single-digit temperature readout on the dash inches from my gloved hands left little doubt we were definitely in the right place when it came to testing snow tires.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is a snow-lover’s paradise in the middle of the winter; snow-laden winter storms are plentiful, the scenery breathtaking, and hospitality first-class.
Those attributes make it an ideal location to see first-hand how factory all-season pickup tires stack up against dedicated snow treads when subjected to some serious testing on the Center for Driving Sciences’ .9-mile road course at the 77-acre Bridgestone Winter Driving School (winterdrive.com; 800.WHY.SKID) just outside of town.
We point the nose of our 2011 GMC Sierra 2500HD Crew Cab off the paved country road and make our way up a narrow plowed lane.
At the crest of the hill, we are greeted by Gordon Speck, one of the school’s gatekeepers who motions us to park at a large tent that makes up the core of this seasonal test facility.
Just beyond the makeshift office/classroom lies a trio of road courses carefully carved out of deep snow, covering what would be a beautiful, sprawling hillside farm pasture during the summer.
Let the fun begin.
Bridgestone’s Winter Driving School is renowned for educating and honing drivers of all skill levels faced with piloting vehicles over roads blanketed with white and ice.
The school’s instructors are some of the best driver’s in the world. In fact, a number of them compete on the professional rally and road-racing circuits when they aren’t teaching students how to maintain vehicle control on slick surfaces.
Students get a heavy dose of classroom tutelage, then plenty of seat time behind the wheel of Toyota Camrys and 4Runners to put theory to track under the watchful eyes of the instructors.
Bridgestone’s driving school offers winter driving classes to corporations and special groups, and a special trailer-towing course for those who face hauling equipment over slippery roads.
It’s the best driving school of its type in the country – and at prices those on a ski holiday can afford. But we aren’t here to learn winter driving techniques or vacation.
We are here to test snow tires – and to do so using the new diesel 4×4 we’d just rolled up in.
Tire comparisons are usually done using cars or SUVs, not 7,000-pound diesel pickups. And tire tests are never done on “E”-rated tires as we planned to do.
Our gracious host, Mark Cox, the school’s director and a seasoned rally driver himself, says our request to compare snow tires on a heavy-duty 4×4 diesel pickup was a “first” for them.
That made our snow tire shootout that much more fun for everyone involved – except maybe the poor guys who drew the short straw to be the official tire changers.