When my co-worker, Kyleigh, and I were recently invited to attend the Bridgestone Winter Driving School we didn’t hesitate to accept the offer. I had heard so much about the program but had no idea how much I’d learn or how fun it would be! Being a Colorado native I thought I knew it all and was a pretty good driver in the snow and ice. Let’s just say the experience was a humbling one.
The full-day class began in the classroom where one of our instructors, Lea, taught us the basics about braking, weight transfer, avoiding accidents, accelerating and handling turns. Lea kept us interested and stressed the importance of keeping the wheels rolling and shared with us the winter driving rule of thumb “when in doubt, both feet out” meaning if you are not certain how to regain control of your vehicle, take your foot off the brake and off the gas.
After the classroom we headed to the track to apply what we had learned. The track is situated a little outside of Steamboat with amazing views of Mt. Werner and the Sleeping Giant. You notice the surroundings only while you walk to your vehicle because when the driving begins, you don’t dare look away from the track and path ahead. The course has several sharp, blind curves and patches of ice as big as a pond (I might be slightly exaggerating but one particular patch was really BIG). We rotated between a Toyota 4 Runner or a Toyota Camry- both geared up with Blizzak tires. I have studded tires on my car and aside from the noise, have always thought they handled well in the ice and snow. After this experience I honestly believe Blizzak tires are the only way to go.
Kyleigh and I took turns following instructions and going through various driving situations. Our instructors, Lea and Matthew, coached us with radio-to-radio instruction from the Eagle’s Nest where they could see our every move. The instructors can see what will happen by watching the tires and calmly coach you through how to get the car back on track by steering and weight transfer (braking or applying gas). It’s amazing how quickly a driver can lose control of the vehicle but so exhilarating when you are able to practice how to correct the situation in a safe environment. That’s what the driving school is all about and with each new technique I learned, I slowly became more confident in my driving skills. Kyleigh and I struggled with one exercise which had us suddenly brake and steer to avoid the “nuns” (a.k.a. construction cones) crossing the street. All I can say is thank goodness the nuns moved out of the way!
It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had learning something. A big thank you to the instructors and to Cathy Wiedemer for inviting us!
Check out the short video which has Lea coaching me through understeer: a type of skid where the font tires have lost grip and the car refuses to turn.