Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Breaking Stereotypes

I was running late arriving to the mountain the other day, getting to the parking lot along with a large number of customers. I was parked several rows away from the standard employee section, which just means I'd have to walk my gear and self to the lodge area a little further. While suiting up for the walk, a car next to me starts blasting some current alt-folk music by Mumford & Sons. This isn't the sort of music you expect to hear on mountain so I turned around to see who it was.

To my surprise, the car blasting the music was a modified Subaru WRX, two snowboards attached to the top, with two early 20-somethings inside. Front windows were drawn just a little bit, with a little bit of smoke drifting out.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Snow Tires

For a long time now there has been a debate between my friends, coworkers, and I over the best type of tire configuration to use while traveling through the snow. There are essentially 3 main ways:

  • Studded Snow Tires - These are snow tires with small metal "spikes" on them. They aren't typically sharp, but they are good for pushing through the snow and providing a better grip in most areas. The downside I've found to these tires is on normal roads, they tend to rip up the roads. I also have found on wet roads they are completely dangerous, with sliding accomplished very easily. Oh yeah, they don't do any better on ice

  • Stud-less Snow Tires - These are tires made with a softer rubber that often utilize much different tread to accomplish a better grip while in snow. Some may have sipping in between the tread blocks. Currently these are my favorite type of tire to use (Bridgestone Blizzaks to be precise). They work really well in the snow, excellent on normal/dry roads, don't tear up the road, and hold on the wet roads really well. Downfalls to these tires are the fact that the softer rubber wears down quicker, and the noise level on dry roads goes up (a bit) Like the studded tires, they're not terribly good on ice.

  • All weather tires with chains - This would be your standard tire wrapped with your choice of chain. I'm not a huge fan of putting on chains mostly because I do not trust the other drivers passing me while I'm attaching them. That said, there are times where chains are the only possible means to moving around on the mountain and I carry a set of 4 for my car at all times. That said I feel there are many downfalls to chains including damage to your tires if improperly installed, damage to others tires if you've improperly installed them, lower speeds mandated (unless you like replacing wheel wells), having to attach/detach on the side of the road. Unlike the other two options, chains appear to work wonderfully on icy roads still.

We debate the merits mostly between studded and stud-less tires a lot. I feel the Blizzak is about as good (if not better) than any studded tire I've had. Now I find a new argument for not using studded tires; Studded tires may harm your lungs and heart over long term usage.

Huh? Over on MSNBC, they highlight a bit of research by some Swedish scientists observing the effects of studded tires. Anyways the MSNBC article is light on content. Either way, it's a fun fact for the next time we have this discussion in the instructor lounge.