2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray: Driving in a Blizzard
January 24, 2014
I called 911. I didn't know what else to do.
The nice man that answered my call said, "911, what is your emergency?" I said I was sorry to bother him, but my car is stuck in the snow and I'm essentially blocking Interstate 70 eastbound somewhere between Vail and Frisco.
He said, "OK, sir. You did the right thing calling us. We'll send out a tow truck as quickly as we can. Please stay in your vehicle. What color is your car?"
"Green," I said.
"And what kind of car is it?"
I paused. I didn't want to tell him. I knew he would think I'm an idiot for driving a Corvette through Colorado in January during a blizzard. "A Chevy," I said.
"What kind of Chevy, sir?"
I paused again. "A Corvette."
And with a snicker he said, "OK, sir. We'll be there as soon as we can."
From Santa Monica to Grand Junction, CO the trip was dry and drama free. I knew there was some weather ahead, but honestly I wasn't worried about it. I was overconfident. We had fitted the Corvette, which is rear-wheel drive and packs 460 horsepower, with Pirelli winter tires, and I had successfully driven our long-term Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster from Santa Monica to South Dakota and back last February without any issue.
Then the snow started. It was no big deal at first. The Corvette's tires and sophisticated traction and stability control systems were working as designed. With the car in "W" or Weather mode, which slows throttle response, traction was not an issue. As long as I could still see some blacktop, 60 mph was still drama free.
Then I began to climb the mountains. And as the elevation rose, the amount of snow falling increased. And then traffic stopped for the first time. A lane was closed ahead and they were forcing us to merge. Suddenly, I found myself in stop-and-go traffic in a blizzard while driving uphill at 5,000-ft. elevation. This wasn't good.
Everyone else was driving something with all- or four-wheel drive, and now I knew why. Every time I would need to inch the car forward I was testing the limits of the tire's and the Stingray's ability in these conditions. The incline of the road was becoming a real issue. Getting the car to move from a dead stop was getting harder and harder.
And now it was getting dark.
By the time I reached Vail I was concerned. I wanted to stop but getting off the interstate and onto the unplowed service roads where the snow was certainly deeper seemed like a bad idea. So I kept going, inching the Corvette through what was now a blizzard. I felt like I was on the set of The Shining .
Thirteen miles later traffic stopped and stayed stopped. We sat there motionless for 20 minutes as an accident was cleared from the road up ahead. I called my wife. She could hear the worry in my voice.
I asked her to make me a reservation at a hotel in Frisco 13 miles down the road. "Any room will do," I said in a mild panic. "Just make sure the hotel is close to the interstate."
During the call traffic began to move, but the Corvette was snowed in. For the first time it wouldn't budge. There was just no traction. The car's stability system was keeping the tires from spinning but it was also shutting off its big V8 engine in an attempt to cut power to the tires. The 18-wheeler behind me was not amused.
"I'm stuck," I yelled into the Bluetooth.
I tried everything. Traction control on. Traction control off. Weather mode. Touring mode. I tried to spin the tires. I tried to rock the car back and forth. Nothing worked. I was stuck. And I was blocking the number two lane.
Out of consideration for my fellow motorists I rolled backward (downhill) onto what little shoulder I could find just to get out of everyone's way. I knew that meant putting the Corvette's tires into even deeper snow and making my situation even worse, but I didn't have much of a choice.
It worked. I was out of the way. And two lanes of continuous traffic rumbled by the driver-side mirror of the Stingray.
"You have a room booked at the Holiday Inn in Frisco," my wife said, "if you can make it there."
"Thanks," I said. "Now what?"
I hung up with my wife and tried again to get the car moving. It was no use. So I made that 911 call.
And then I sat there testing the Corvette's seat heaters as I watched the snow fall and the traffic go by. Traffic that was now limited to the far left lane and included the occasional plow. I started to think that if I could get over to the left lane I could get going.
Twenty minutes later, just as my survival instinct was kicking in with an odd desire to eat my left foot, I could see a break in the traffic.
For the first time there were no headlights in my rearview mirror. I rolled backward down the hill again, this time maybe 100 ft. and maneuvered the car over into the left lane. For the record, I have never reversed down an interstate highway before and I don't plan on doing it again.
I put the car back in Weather Mode, made sure its traction control system was on, put it in first gear and crossed my fingers. There was just enough traction to get the car moving. Five mph. Ten mph. Fifteen mph. Yes. It's working. Second gear. 20 mph. 30. Third gear. 40.
It worked. I was free.
I called 911 and told them I had busted out. No tow truck needed. And I made it to the Holiday Inn which was packed with other travelers that had also decided to wait out the storm.
The next day I awoke to blue skies and I didn't hit a touch of rain or snow the rest of the trip to Detroit.
But I did learn something. Two things really. First, I learned that even modern electronics and winter tires have their limitations. And I learned why Subarus are so popular in Colorado.
Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief