Hey everyone, just thought I would post some words on a trail/instructional experience from the weekend. Our local club had a group attend a "Winter Driver" training put on by Bruce Elfstrom, of Overland Experts in CT (www.overlandexperts.com
). Bruce has an amazing parcel of land where he has built a custom driver training course with EVERYTHING you could imagine. He also runs trips worldwide, a few of our club members have been on his Iceland/Mongolia trips and rave about them.
I was a bit skeptical of the course as I thought their would not be too much more to learn. I mean really, it's only snow. Well, I could't have been more wrong. We started out the first day talking about the concepts and dynamics of winter driving. Their was a dusting of snow on the ground with hard pack ice underneath. We moved into making sure everyone knew how to use certain implements such as hi lifts and the safety in winching techniques and using the jack and various recovery equipment.
Soon after, we started up the trucks and moved out to the first obstacle, a huge steep hill with icy ruts. Here, Bruce had us practice failed hill climbs. Naturally, even when we gave our best efforts to get up the hill, most of us failed. One or two of which ended up being spectacular failures where someone mistakenly tapped the brakes and went sideways. Really, the lessons here were to make sure you had enough momentum before you hit the hill, to carry you over, as once you were on it, you either had the momentum or were going to go back down, backwards. The key to the backwards roll was to keep your foot off the brake until you were on flat ground. Something that was scary in itself.
The rest of the day progressed into reviewing actual recovery situations, and learning more about using the moving momentum of the vehicle to get you through everything: cross axles, off cambers, etc. This was something new and different to me, since I have lockers, I'm use to crawling over just about everything. This course and terrain forced you to pick a better line and carry your speed when necessary.
The second day, we awoke to a full blown snow storm. This was great as we headed out to the trails. We did some steep downhills, where I learned that on ice and snow, having low engine braking actually works against you ( I came within a foot of learning how well built my front bumper might be). The low engine braking or lowest gearing, even with no brakes can actually cause your wheels to brake the truck and force you into a skid. After this, we progressed to using tire chains. Talk about a truly awesome tool. After watching some fully locked trucks with no chains fail steep uphill climbs. I strapped on chains and literally walked up hills. It was truly awesome. We spent the entire day exploring the complex and difficult trails on OEX's property. Learning how to cross frozen bodies of water, etc. All in all, I came away from the weekend with a totally new set of skills and understanding on the very distinct and even drastic differences in winter wheeling. I mean, the driving techniques you use are TOTALLY different from those of every other season.
I'll be sending CVC the hundred pics and video or so to post. In the meantime, you can go here see some initial pics: http://www.pbase.com/jamooche/january17
I would highly recommend the driver training from OEX, or consider doing one of OEX's extended trips (I'm already saving for Iceland). Bruce's instruction is very good and he has quite a bit of experience. He regularly trains gov't agencies as well as state and environmental agencies, and of course does private training for the rest of us. He also has an amzaing arsenal of vehicles to use. Not just rovers, but landcruisers, unimogs, Ford Vans (yes, crazy isn't it...), etc.
Just thought I'd give everyone the head's up and personal experience.