As I was talking with friends recently about our snowy roads, we started swapping stories of road trips derailed by bad weather. Many of these winter road trips were born of my desire to go skiing, because ever since the first time I put on skis, I’ve been passionate about all things skiing. We’ve had our share of road mishaps here in Colorado (see above picture), but probably my wildest road trip came about from my very first time skiing and a crazy scheme hatched up by two college girls in search of powder, on the cheap.
My friend, Carrie, lived in my college dorm with me and was already a skier. I was dying to go skiing, and one night we came up with a plan to go skiing for the weekend. Understand, however, that we went to college in southern Virginia, Williamsburg, which rarely gets a dusting of snow. So, if we were going to go skiing, it was going to involve several hours of driving. Carrie had heard some friends of hers were skiing in Snowshoe, West Virginia that weekend and had a condo that we could crash for the night. So all we would be on the hook for, was the gas money and lift tickets — sounded good, right? Now, in good weather, the drive from Williamsburg to Snowshoe is 4 1/2 hours. We knew if we left on Saturday, that would mean a half day of skiing at best, and then we heard there could be snow as well, which would lengthen the drive. So in our crazy, sophomoric brains, we decided if we left at 11 p.m., drove through the night, we’d get there early, could sleep in the back of my car (a Mustang hatchback), then go skiing all day. What a great plan! Of course, in hindsight, there are lots of things wrong with this plan, and it would get worse over the next 24 hours.
I grew up in the midwest, where we occasionally got snow, but not a lot, and we rarely drove on the roads if they were snow covered, so I didn’t have a lot of experience driving in snowy conditions. Factor in that my car was a Ford Mustang, with rear wheel drive, and of course, no snow tires. Then as we got closer to the mountains of West Virginia, it started to snow — REALLY HARD… Now, we have all the ingredients for a recipe for a disaster. Carrie and I are driving along in this snowstorm, the road had become so snow covered, we couldn’t see the lines, we had the radio blasting, singing loudly. I drove around a curve, going way too fast, and all of the sudden, the car spins out and starting going around in a circle, otherwise known as “doing a donut.” At this moment, I’m thinking — WE”RE GOING TO DIE!!!” and then the next thought that pops into my head is “my parents are going to be really, really mad at me for wrecking the car.” Finally, after what seems like an eternity, but I’m sre was just a few seconds, we come to a stop off the side of the road by careening into a snowbank. Carrie and I look at each other, wild-eyed and exclaim at the same time, “We’re alive!”. We couldn’t tell how close we were to the slope of the hill, I’m now facing the wrong way on the highway, so I get out on the road side, and Carrie crawls over to my side to get out. And we see that the tires on the passenger side aren’t really firmly on the ground, but buried in snow. We knew there was no way we were going to just drive the car out of that.
By this point, it is around 2 a.m. in the morning on a 2-lane road in the mountains of West Virginia. We decide to start walking, thinking we might come to a house. Soon after, a car comes by, and without us even waving him down, stops and asks if we need help. Then he proceeds to bring out his flares to place by our car, drives us into nearest town and takes us to the police station. All for a mere thank you and a wish of “good luck!” The police promptly calls up Ray, the local tow truck driver, who comes right over to the station like it’s no big deal — this happens all the time, right? He drives us back to our car, pulls us out all for the bargain price of $35. Now it’s around 3 a.m. in the morning and still snowing hard. We all know what the responsible thing to do would have been — drive the car back to town and find a place to spend the night. But we are two crazy teenagers, hell-bent on going skiing, so of course we push on through the night. I am so traumatized, that my hands are shaking and my legs are shaking from the fear and anxiety.
We finally pulled into the Snowshoe parking lot around 5 a.m., crawled in the back of my car into our sleeping bags, slept for three hours and went skiing in sub-zero temperatures. And that day I was bitten with the ski bug, and loved it more than I could have imagined. The ski bum in me lives on thirty years later, and I still get giddy all over again thinking about my first day of the ski season (which hopefully is next week!). But I now own an all-wheel drive Subaru with snow tires, and I drive a lot more slowly, a LOT MORE SLOWLY….