In my last article, I discussed how to travel in deep snow, or snow crawling. In this article I want to spend time discussing something critical: how to turn around.
Changing direction on a tight trail is usually pretty easy via a multi-point turn, but gets much harder if you are stuck in a snow track on a mountain road with two foot berms of snow on each side.
Often this causes people to just keep driving forward in hopes of finding a wide spot to turn around. This can be a good tactic, but what do you do if that wide spot just never happens? If the snow is fresh, or at least not hard frozen, you can make a wide spot. Working carefully, you can use the floatation of aired-down tires to carefully pack the snow, a little bit at a time. Using this tactic, you can make the packed snow track as wide as you need to turn your vehicle around using a multi-point turn.
I prefer to find locations that have a relatively flat section of road with a roadbed that is at least as wide as the turn-around I want to make. Then, working one tire width (or even less) at a time, slowly pack the snow with your air-down tires. Make one pass, then back up packing that track down. Then move a small mount (again, one tire width or less) to the side and make another pass. Continue making passes like this until all the snow is packed in the area you want in your turn around. The key here is to go slow and let the floatation of the tires work for you packing the snow so you have a road bed wide and long enough for you to turn around via a multi-point turn.
I find 5 or more car lengths is the minimum length, and I try to make turn-rounds two lines wide. The wider your turn-around spot is, the fewer points you will have to make on your multi-point turn. This tactic can also be used to make a spot to allow oncoming vehicles to pass.
Ok, so you have your wide spot in the road of packed snow that you can drive on. You are now ready to turn around via a multi-point turn. There are things you can do to make your multi-point turn more successful. I find it very helpful to make the initial turn by backing up and turning hard so that the rear of the vehicle heads to the ditch.
The reason I do this is because my winch is in front, and the engine is over the front axle. If I get the back axle stuck in the ditch, I can use the winch to recover the vehicle out of the ditch. With the engine over the front axle, most of the weight will be on the roadbed and not stuck in the ditch, thus minimizing the amount of effort the winch must do to recover the vehicle. Generally, if there is a hill, I back toward the uphill side of the road. I do this for a few reasons. First, if I must move the vehicle toward a drop-off or cliff, I want the best visibility possible. Almost always, visibility is best moving forward. Backing blindly toward a cliff is just a bad plan, so try to avoid it. Second, gravity can usually help drive the vehicle forward as I drive out of the ditch in the second portion of the multi-point turn (this is not always the case, but every little bit helps). I repeat this process making as many points to the turn as I need to slowly turn the vehicle around. I find it works best to make many short turns back and forth keeping the vehicle out of the ditch if possible. This can take longer, but minimizes the risk of getting stuck. As you gain experience with your vehicle, you will develop a feel for what works. Careful practice is very helpful here.
Written by- Ken Beahm
Photo Credit- Joseph Dyer