Safety Tips for Your Upcoming Mountain Road Trip

car driving in mountainsUnfortunately, we aren’t all lucky enough to live in a town where you can catch your first chairlift within 20 minutes of waking up. Most people must make the commute for day trips and many people live far enough that they need to make a weekend out of it.

The thing about driving to a mountain ski resort is, well, it’s in the mountains. This means the journey can be precarious at times as your car traverses across sketchy mountain passes.  Winter conditions only intensify the roads you may have to navigate. While you can never be completely prepared for speed bumps in your road trip, make sure you’re as prepared as possible! Here are our safety tips for a successful mountain road trip.

Before You Leave

Check the Car

Give yourself plenty of time to make sure your car is ready to handle mountain driving. This can include things such as being up to date on all service work like oil changes and inspecting your tires for appropriate tread levels (which is 1/8 of an inch).

Without proper traction, even a car with All-Wheel Drive can have trouble in extreme conditions. Some states have traction laws that, when in effect, issue tickets for cars that do not meet tread standard.

To make sure your tires are ready to go, get a little help from George Washington. Use a quarter to test your tread depth. Insert the quarter into the tread with George’s head facing down. If the tread covers the top of his head, then it is at least 1/8 of an inch deep. If the tread does not cover it at all, your tire’s tread is too shallow. Check multiple spots on each tire, and if any of the spots fail George’s test, your car isn’t the safest it can be. It’s time to get new tires.

Tire Quarter Test


Another important, but often looked-over item you should check is washer fluid. Make sure the car is completely full and you have extra in the car. The splash back from other cars can cake dirty substances to the windshield that can freeze. Without washer fluid, it can become impossible to see and therefore unsafe. Make sure your wiper blades are ready to tackle the elements as well.

Emergency Car Kits

Stock your car with everything you may need in case of an emergency. Here’s a quick list of items you should have for a road trip, especially in adverse weather:

  • First aid kit
  • Plenty of water
  • Food, such as trail mix and granola bars
  • Blankets and extra layers
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Car cell phone charger
  • Shovel
  • Kitty litter (To pour under tires for traction if you get stuck)

On the Drive

Be sure to get a good night’s rest before the drive. Have a good selection of music and books on tape to help keep you alert and awake. Of course, you’ll be anxious to reach your destination, but be cautious when driving on roads that are not dry.

Even if the road appears to be only wet, there could be black ice hiding underneath. If driving at night, dim the dashboard lights to help eliminate anything that could disrupt visuals on the road. It’s always best to have your headlights on when driving in the mountains regardless if it’s night or not, and especially if it’s snowing or raining. Even if it’s not providing you any noticeable help, it makes it easier for other cars to see you.

It can be stressful planning for a ski trip but don’t let the drive worry you. Follow these safety tips and have a successful mountain road trip.

Bailey Valian

Bailey was born and raised in a small Colorado mountain town called Crested Butte. This is where her love for the outdoors started. She has now found herself in Denver, CO where the mountains aren't too far away. When she's not hiking, camping or skiing in the mountains she enjoys traveling, volunteering, going to sporting events (Go Broncos and Avs!) and making friends with any animal she meets.

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