To try and provide some deeper information on winter driving, we contacted the experts who actually run specialized, high-performance, winter driving courses.

Road & Track called Team O’Neil “The Finest Rally School in the Country,” and runs a comprehensive winter driving course at its facility in Dalton, New Hampshire. We talked to Wyatt Knox, the school’s Director of Special Projects, and champion rally driver, about what drivers should be aware of in the snow and ice. For the record, this is no replacement for actually taking the course (we’ve provided a link to the school’s website below), but it should get you thinking about what to expect.

Good winter driving habits start with good driving habits in general, and being attentive to the task at hand is paramount. “Being aware of your surroundings simply means paying close attention to what’s going on in and around your car, especially with the road and its periphery well ahead of yourself. Being able to react properly in an emergency is great, but spotting something wrong well ahead of time may allow you to negate the emergency situation entirely,” Wyatt says.

Winter drivers need to be more attuned, thanks to changing driving conditions. “We need to assess the actual road surface and changes in temperature much more carefully than we normally do, and adjust our speed to those conditions and the capabilities of our vehicles,” he says.

Wyatt suggests assigning different surfaces a numerical value from 0-100%, based on how much grip those surfaces provide. “Ice might be 10%, snow can be up to 40-50% depending on temperature, gravel roads and wet tarmac are even higher than that,” he says. Different types of snow offer significantly different grip. For example, wet, heavy snow can provide a significantly higher amount of traction than dry, powdery snow. “If you’re unfamiliar with different types of snow, depths, and temperatures, get used to walking around on different surfaces in the wintertime, slide around on your feet a little bit, or get up to a running speed and try to stop yourself. It sounds silly, but even childhood memories and instincts can be very valuable behind the wheel in the winter,” he says.

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