As a Park Ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park, I used to do a program called “Autumn in the Rockies.”  The theme centered on how nature transitions and prepares itself for the coming winter.

While talking to a neighbor who is new to Nederland, I realized the same is true for us humans.  What do we need to do to get ready for winter in the Colorado Rocky Mountains?

Peace of Mind on the Road

Winter can mean icy roads, where it’s easy to slip and slide around, even with an All Wheel Drive car.  Our first October, I made the fatal mistake of trying to drive up the infamous Summer Road after it had snowed 2-3 inches.  Despite the fact I had my all-season tires on, I thought “No problem, I’ve got a Subaru!”

Fast forward five minutes later, as my heart almost stopped beating while my trusty Subaru Forester slid backwards down the steep slope.  There seemed to be no way to stop the sliding, because every time I hit the brakes, the anti-locks went off and I started to slide sideways.  Finally, in a fit of desperation, I yanked as hard as I could on the parking brake, and mercifully, the car stopped.

So part of my winter preparations are getting a good set of dedicated snow tires installed on the car around the second weekend in October.  The peace of mind it gives me is more than worth the cost.

And no one wants to be cold while walking the dogs or shoveling the porch, so I make sure all our winter down jackets have been washed and fluffed, and that gloves and hats are clean and ready to be worn.

Preparing for Power Outages

I also prepare myself for power outages.  Between the howling winds and heavy snowfall we can get, inevitably we find ourselves without power 3-4 times a winter.  Sometimes an outage can last a full 24 hours.  When you use well water, the pump no longer works once the power goes out.  No power, no water.So I make sure we have extra water on hand to cook with, drink, and even flush the toilet.

Having light can be really useful during a power outage because of the early sunsets.  So we try to keep lanterns, and flashlights easily accessible in the living room, kitchen and bedrooms.

Since the first thing you want to do is when the power goes out, is call the power company, we keep a couple of corded telephones around.  We don’t get cell service at our house, and cordless phones are useless when you don’t have electricity.

Extra Fuel

And the last thing I now do to get ready is make sure we have plenty of gasoline.  I keep my car topped up with fuel, because you never know when you might be stuck on a road waiting for EMS to clear an accident, or the road to re-open.  And it’s good to be able to run the heater on your car in said situation.  In conjunction with that, I keep some extra power bars and water in the car too.

And we keep gasoline in our gas cans too, so that in an extended power outage, we can run our generator.  After suffering five winters of power outages, we finally spent the money for a generator and what a difference it makes!  Last year, during a longer power outage, we ran our pellet stove, plugged in our refrigerator, router (for Wifi), and even our satellite TV.  We thoroughly enjoyed our snow storm with no stressing about when Excel would get the power on.

What do you do to get ready for winter?  Maybe you have your own rituals, or maybe you just follow the lead of the birds and head to a warmer climate.