To Drive in the Snow or Not?

Today something happened in our athletic department that has never happened before since I have worked for Grizzly Athletics: One of our teams had to pull out of a competition because the travel necessary to get to the site was too dangerous. Here is the short summary of what occurred…

The bus transporting our indoor track and field teams to a meet in Bozeman had to put on the brakes just 20 miles outside of town and return to Missoula. Why? The snow and ice covered roads posed too much of a risk to justify trekking the final 185 miles for a chance to compete at the last chance Montana State Bobcat Open.

I guess I should mention it just wasn’t the hazardous roads themselves that deterred that bus from continuing to our rival’s backyard. Also contributing was the forecast for continued precipitation combined with the numerous cars already out of commission on the side of the road and the perplexity of the bus itself getting stuck a few times on the short voyage. In the end the decision was a no-brainer.

However, driving in the winter weather is not always a no-brainer for many, especially those of us who live in the colder, northern states. We were raised driving in the snow and take pride in our ability to navigate through it in our vehicles. To me waking up in the morning and seeing that a few inches of snow fell over the night is second nature. I just get in my car and drive to work. But sometimes we get so confident in our winter driving skills that we fail to see the difference between a few inches of white stuff on the ground compared to much more extreme conditions.

I took this picture this morning. Although the roads were snow covered they were safe to drive on plus it was beautiful out!

I took this picture this morning. Although the roads were snow covered they were safe to drive on plus it was beautiful out!

Last night I drove home from work after the basketball game right when it started to blizzard out. I made the mistake of taking the interstate and found myself in the middle of the freeway on a snow covered road with absolutely no visibility. I turned off the radio, concentrated on doing the best I could to find my exit, and wondered aloud why I didn’t wait a few minutes or take a different route. Although I only had to drive some four miles those were definitely four white-knuckled miles.

Why did I put myself through it? Why have I put myself through it previous times before? Well in all fairness many times we don’t know how bad it is actually going to be. It is easy to look out the window or assess the conditions from where your car is parked at and go from there. Conditions change and surprises await. That is part of the problem. The other part of the problem though is ego. As I said earlier, many of us have it programmed into our minds that we must drive in the roughest of winter storms, even if we own a Toyota Solara. There is pressure to get places and for many people, especially males, using the roads as an excuse is not acceptable.

Although sometimes I think it is. The track and field bus today did not continue to Bozeman because the driver, coaches, and student-athletes were not comfortable. They stopped at an exit, had a meeting, and made a decision to go back to Missoula. I think all of us are capable of identifying that feeling inside of us that says “I don’t feel safe”. At that point we must act on that gut feeling and not test the roads. Sure, we might have to swallow our pride but it is always better than the alternative of driving and not making it to our final destination. Don’t Blink.

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