I know I’m not an experienced winter driver, but I have driven on snow a number of times in the few inches we typically get around Victoria. I know to take things slowly - only light touches on gas, brake, and wheel - and to think much further ahead than usual. I’ve never had a problem getting to where I need to go.
We woke up Friday to an inch or so of snow on the ground, but it was still falling steadily. I got outside and shoveled the driveway clear. By the time I showered and dressed for work you wouldn’t know I’d been out there. Oh well.
We live in a dip at the bottom of a hill. Not normally a problem because our road is a school bus route and they always keep the road clear.
Not today. I guess it wasn’t yet bad enough for them to bother.
Regardless, it was still only a couple of inches. Shouldn’t be a problem. Ali set off ahead of me in the Expedition. That is usually my car but yesterday she needed to get into a parkade downtown so that left me with the much bigger truck. She got out of the slight rise at the end of our drive and made it up the hill.
I followed in the truck. Except I didn’t. She’d warned me that it was light at the back end and prone to slipping getting out of the drive and she was right. Rather than mess around with 4 wheel drive at this point I decided to head the other way. A few yards away there’s a side road that leads back up to rejoin our road - a long but fairly gentle uphill.
Shouldn’t be a problem for a big truck, should it?
Half way up, I realized I was losing speed and the slightest touch on the gas simply span the wheels. No way to keep up my speed. I came to a stop, engaged 4WD and tried to move. No dice. Worse, with each try I was drifting sideways towards the side of the road and a ditch. I stopped again and put my foot on the brakes to consider my next move.
To my horror, I noticed I was slowly but steadily sliding backwards down the hill! Let’s gloss over the next hour of rising panic as I tried to maneuver myself out of danger and back home. I can summarize it by saying I managed to reverse cautiously back to level ground, had another run at it which got me a bit further but not to the top, reversed to the bottom again and headed back the way I’d come only to be defeated by the rise at the exit onto our main road - so frustrating, I was literally across the road from our front hedge but couldn’t get out! I seemed to have absolutely zero traction to tackle the slightest incline. Reversed back to the bottom of that dip, along the way getting stuck across someone’s driveway where I mistakenly though it would be easier to turn around, before finally taking another more level side road and making it back home.
Apart from the sheer frustration, my biggest emotion at that point was profound embarrassment at my dismal failure. One or two smaller cars passed by during my skating exercises, seemingly oblivious to the slippery conditions. There was I sitting in a big 4WD truck completely helpless. I’m sure I must have made good entertainment for some of the neighbors!
To cap it all, I still don’t understand what I was doing wrong or what I could have done differently. Surely a vehicle like that should be able to handle a bit of snow and ice, shouldn’t it? Any thoughts from folks more experienced in those conditions?