As an avid snowboarder, I love hitting the slopes on winter weekends. So much so that several friends and I have an annual tradition of heading up to Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain from New York City, usually around Presidents’ Day.
So when Chevrolet invited me up there a couple days before that holiday for something called the Chevy Games, I jumped at the opportunity like Shaun White out of a halfpipe. What followed were a couple awesome days of curling, bobsledding, goofing off, learning about and watching the Olympics and improving snow-driving skills.
But perhaps the true highlight was my vehicle for the weekend, the new Chevy Equinox, which proved not only well equipped to handle inclement weather, but also promises to be a real joy ride on sunny days. Here are just a few things I love about it, followed by some handy winter road trip tips that will serve you well no matter what kind of wheels you’ve got.
1. Nimble Handling: The Equinox doesn’t just look gorgeous; it drives beautifully, too. From the urban crush of Manhattan to the wide-open upstate highway to the snow-slicked streets of Lake Placid, this vehicle is truly a pleasure to pilot. Acceleration is peppy, steering is responsive and braking is smooth. It can get out of gunk easily too. We took it out to a snowy parking lot, activated all-wheel-drive and every time we punched the gas, it jumped to life and virtually glided over slush and crust.
2. Generous Space: As a veteran of countless winter road trips in undersized vehicles—think three dudes packed into a MINI with loads of snowboard and ski gear, bindings removed from boards in order to squeeze them in—I’ve got experienced making do with limited room. I’m also totally over it, making the Equinox a welcome relief. With 60/40 fold-down seats, this ride presents a glorious 63.5-feet of available cargo space. That is more than enough room for three or even four snow lovers to load up their gear and cruise up to the mountains.
3. Comforting Safety: The Equinox is quite honestly packed with safety features, including Intellibeam headlamps, low-speed forward automatic braking, lane keep assist, a vibrating safety alert seat and surround vision cameras that are huge help when parallel parking. Perhaps my favorite, however, is a relatively simple one. If you attempt to change lanes and there’s a vehicle in your blind spot, a little light on the mirror warms to life, giving you a heads up and possibly saving your life—or at least helping you avoid a nasty collision.
4. Super Connectivity: Last but far from least, two progressive, built-in tech features cannot be overlooked with the Equinox. First is the 4G LTE WiFi, which keeps you online even in places where your phone may not have service. This is hugely helpful if you’re attempting to navigate remote areas late at night, as we found ourselves doing on the last hour to Lake Placid. It’s also handy if your passengers wanna mess around on laptops or tablets, as it allows up to seven devices to get online at once.
Second is Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, which essentially lets your smartphone take over the dash display, making navigation, communication and audio as simple as it is in daily life. Which is great because I can’t imagine making a five-hour drive without some nostalgic ’90s rock—and the option to blast “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” while quite literally driving to Brooklyn.
Winter Road Trip Tips
>> Prep your ride: Take your vehicle in for any scheduled service, making sure your battery, tires, lights, wiper blades and other critical parts are good to go. Check tire pressure, as it can drop as the weather gets colder. And consider winter tires, which provide added traction in snow and ice, even for vehicles with four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive.
>> Fuel and stock up: Bad weather can cause unexpected delays, so keep your gas tank at least half full and your cell phone charged. In addition to a snow brush and ice scraper, pack a snow shovel and abrasive material such as sand or cat litter. Jumper cables, a flashlight and flares can help if you encounter unexpected problems. Cold weather clothing and an emergency blanket or sleeping bag can be critical if you are stuck or stranded.
>> Know your wheels: Review the sections of your owner’s manual covering antilock brakes, traction control, and four- or all-wheel-drive (if equipped) to make sure you are comfortable with their operation.
>> Keep it rolling: If you must travel up a hill in snowy conditions, leave enough room in front of you to maintain your momentum. Stopping in the middle of a hill can leave you stuck. When changing lanes, look for patches of snow-covered pavement, which often provide better traction. If you do start to skid, look in the direction you want the car to go and steer smoothly in that direction. With just about any modern vehicle, don’t pump the brakes. Simply maintain pressure on the pedal and let the ABS modulate the braking.
>> Get unstuck: If you do get stuck, turn the steering wheel left and right to clear the area around the front wheels. Turn off any traction system. Gently shift back and forth between reverse and a low forward gear, spinning the wheels as little as possible. This creates a rocking motion that may help free the vehicle. If that doesn’t work call for help. Check your owner’s manual for detailed instructions about intermittently running the vehicle to keep the interior warm. Clear snow from the base of the vehicle, especially any snow blocking the exhaust pipe. Open a window about two inches on the vehicle side away from the wind to bring in fresh air. Relax, it’s gonna be OK!