Preparing for a skiing or snowboarding trip is about more than packing up your bags with weather appropriate clothing and extra snacks and hitting the road with your phone’s GPS. Your car also requires a decent amount of preparation to ensure your time on the road is as safe as possible. If you’re driving from an area where you don’t encounter steep slopes, snow or ice as frequently, you’ll have additional considerations that you may not have thought of before. Use these steps to be sure that your vehicle is road-trip-ready in time for your vacation.
1. Check your tires (including your spare).
When driving in the mountains, the condition of your tires is critical. Before going on a trip, check the tread, making sure there aren’t any slow leaks or cracks in the rubber. Use a tire pressure gauge to ensure all of the tires are equally filled to manufacturer-recommended levels. This will help with your gas mileage, as well as ensure you have as much traction as possible when you drive on steep inclines or if the road gets slick. Having a spare is essential on any trip, but especially on a trip to the mountains. There may hours between towns, or even encountering another vehicle. Have a spare ready and available, in case the tire goes flat while you’re driving. This will save a lot of headaches later on. Keep in mind some newer vehicles do not come with a spare tire, so speak with your local tire shop about having a spare or extra tire prepared for your vehicle if you do not already have one.
2. Check your breaks.
While it’s important to avoid over-braking on downhill slopes, you also need to be sure that your brake pads have plenty of life left in them. As you’re driving down the mountain, you may need to downshift and tap on your brakes every so often to keep from speeding. Another consideration is wildlife. Many animals cross the road throughout the day and during the night, and you want to be able to stop as quickly as possible to avoid an accident.
3. Check your oil.
It’s always a good rule of thumb to check your oil before a major road trip. Change or oil if it’s getting close to time, or at least top it off if needed. Driving in the mountains can put additional strain on your engine, so treat it well and extend its life by keeping the oil fresh and full.
4. Check your lights.
Visibility in the mountains, especially when it’s precipitating, is a major safety factor. Check that each of your lights is functioning, including your fog lights, which you may not need often where you live. Have a friend or family member check your brake lights while you are tapping on them, as well as your turn signals.
5. Top off your fluids.
Check your windshield wiper fluid, antifreeze, transmission fluid, and gas before beginning your trip. If you’ve mapped out your course and have determined that the gas stations are too far apart to account for detours or scenic routes, you may want to pack an extra gas can, just in case.
6. Pack these essentials.
In addition to the items you’ll need for your trip, you will also want to load your vehicle with each of these necessities.
- An emergency kit including a First-aid kit, flares, jumper cables, a flashlight, a blanket, an AM/FM radio, bottled water and non-perishable snacks, and any items you may need in an emergency, like medications.
- Your cell phone and charger
- Some extra cash in case your card is frozen for any reason or you patronize a business that does not accept cards or checks
- Plenty of snacks and drinking water
- Extra blankets
- Non-clumping kitty litter and a shovel in case you get stuck
- Warm winter clothes you can put on if you need to go outside and change a tire or dig out of a snowbank
- Ice scraper
- Tire chains
7. Map your trip.
Cell coverage can be patchy in the mountains, so you’ll want to have a map of your course–or at least a state map–printed out or purchased ahead of time. If you’ve only driven the route a couple of times, or are brand new to the area, you’ll want to have a good idea of how to get to your destination in case your phone dies or you’re left without service. This is also a good idea in case a detour comes up, so you’ll have a general understanding of the area.
Bonus Tip: Check the Weather and Plan Accordingly
As always, when you’re going on a road trip, it’s important to check the weather ahead of time. You’ll want to know when and where you may encounter inclement weather. Consider a back-up plan, in case the roads are too slick to drive, or adjust what you are bringing if you think you may be snowed in longer than expected.
We hope that you enjoy the mountains this ski season, but as always, safety comes first. Use these tips to make sure the most memorable part of your trip to the mountains is the great skiing you’ll find in New Mexico and fun time spent with family.