WINTER DRIVING WARNING: FUN AHEAD

Winter driving in your road-going vehicle can be a stressful, high-risk activity. Snowy, icy, slippery road conditions, reduced visibility and other drivers who may seriously lack skills and judgment mean you’ve got to be hyper-aware. When you’ve got places to be, winter conditions can do a lot to make road driving less fun than normal. Snow driving in UTVs is a whole different matter. With a few simple steps of preparation, UTVing in snow is one of the most fun kinds of driving, and it shouldn’t be missed if the opportunity presents itself.

When snow hits, it can be tempting to just clear the seat off and start roosting snow, but taking care of a few things first can make snow driving a whole lot more enjoyable.

Before you clear any snow off, find a brush or small broom to work with rather than using your hands. Your hands will get colder than usual anyway, and it’s always better to start with warm, dry hands. Find the warmest gloves you can for driving. Bulky gloves might seem like a hindrance for driving, but they’re usually not a problem at snow-driving speeds, which are slower than normal. We’ve learned that bulky gloves and warm hands beat normally good driving gloves and frozen fingers.

There’s a pretty good chance that the seats will be wet when you clear the snow off. Falling snow can wet them as you try to dry them, or some snow won’t come off, which will melt when you sit on it. Sitting on wet seats isn’t the best way to begin a ride in cold weather, so Gore-Tex pants or even simple rain pants can add a lot of comfort and let you stay out longer.

If your machine was out in the snow when the snow fell, it’s wise to clear the hood and dash of accumulated snow before you take off. Even a couple inches of snow on these areas can block your view, and visibility often isn’t the best in snowy conditions and cold weather anyway. Leave the snow where it sits and it will blow back onto you, maybe at a very inconvenient time if you get going very fast or catch a wind gust.

Eye protection in cold or snowy weather is a must. Your eyes water more in the cold, and falling snow can totally block your vision. A  windshield is a huge plus, but a helmet with a face shield is the next best thing, and a tinted visor is a big help in all the white scenery. A helmet with a visor offers excellent wind protection, is easy to wipe clear, and is the warmest, most water-resistant hat you’ll ever wear.

Once your machine is clear of snow and you’re geared up, you’re nearly ready to play in the snow. A quick look at tire pressure, oil and coolant levels is a good idea. When you get moving, use low range and be gentle with the throttle for the first 10 or 15 minutes of driving to give the drive belt a chance to warm up and become flexible.

With warm-up done, it’s time to have fun. Driving in snow is when you’ll experience some of the most fun slides and spin-outs you’ve ever experienced, all at comically slow-motion speeds. UTVs are remarkably capable in snow and can take you where you can see snow-covered scenery that’s very hard to see without a snowmobile or a helicopter. Don’t get too crazy until you get a feel for the reduced traction. You’ll feel like a real goon if you take out your neighbor’s mailbox or slide off an easy hillside trail and get seriously stuck. Getting stuck in snow is a consideration. Depending on the conditions, it can be surprisingly and embarrassingly easy to get stuck.

As fun as driving UTVs in the snow is, I know plenty of people including some UTVers who don’t want any part of it. In most cases, they’re folks who never gave it a try or didn’t have the chance. If the opportunity presents itself, I recommend you take it, even if it takes a full-cab UTV with heat to get you out there.

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