Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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My wife used to snicker at me when I would toss a couple of sleeping bags into the car before setting off on a mid-winter trip to Denver.
She doesn’t snicker anymore.
Ever since January 2008, when we slept for five hours in the back of our vehicle while it was parked outside the Silverthorne Community Center, sleeping bags have been embraced as necessary equipment for trips through the mountains.
The storm that night was so nasty that Interstate 70 was closed in both directions soon after we descended from the Eisenhower Tunnel. Colorado Highway 9 north to Kremmling also was closed.
We tried desperately to book a room, but all of the motels were full.
Hundreds of sweaty strangers packed into the Silverthorne Community Center to wait out the blizzard like a bunch of week-old bratwurst crammed into a cellophane package. That’s not my thing.
So our only chance for slumber was to put down the rear seats in the car and seal ourselves up in our mummy bags.
Blasts of wind rocked us to sleep as the car swayed on its suspension. And we survived.
As I embark on my 32nd winter in the ’Boat, I feel qualified to dispense some unsolicited advice about surviving a Steamboat winter:
■ Along with your sleeping bags, put a small telescoping shovel in the back of your car and a roadside emergency kit. A headlamp is far superior to a flashlight — it leaves your hands free, for example, while you aim the light at your frozen fuel injectors and pray for divine intervention.
■ This might sound crazy, but it’s a good idea to practice changing your tire — especially if you don’t know where your jack is, or even if you just don’t know jack.
■ Get a restaurant job and spend the winter well fed. The shift meals in this town are gourmet.
■ If you can’t get a restaurant job, you can mix up a batch of creamy tomato soup made from ketchup and mayonnaise packets and hot water from the coffee machine at the mini mart.
■ Purchase a towing strap for less than $20. That way, when you go off the road into the ditch on Muddy Pass at 4 a.m. (been there, done that), the nice truck driver who stops to check on you actually might use his 18-wheeler to pull you out. Put the car in neutral first.
■ Do not leave your car parked on city streets overnight during snow removal operations. It could be subject to towing. My sources tell me that in winter 2010-11, the minimum fee you will pay for having your car towed and impounded is $162 (in cash money; no debit cards). And that’s only if you have the good fortune to abandon your car no more than a mile from the towing company. Add another $5 for every mile after that.
If you cannot come up with $162 cash, beg your friends. The impoundment fee goes up another $32 for every additional day you leave the car there.
■ Go Gaiters! No, not the Florida Gators. The Snow Gaiters. A pair of snow gaiters will prevent you from getting snow inside your boots when you unsuspectingly step into snow up to your butt. Gaiters are canvas leggings that wrap around your calf and zip closed. The top seals tight with a draw cord — no more freezing wet socks.
And if you wear gaiters to a business appointment in Steamboat, people will be really impressed. It’s a sign that you are a veteran of many winters.