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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Seeking the opinions of the many experienced folks around here.

I just took my new 2012 OB to the mountains of Cloudcroft, New Mexico for a short mountain bike trip with a buddy and fell in love with the cabin we stayed in. My wife and I were thinking about heading back up there right after the new year with our 4 year old so he could see the hopefully snowy mountains.

A few things: while I've done a fair amount of mountain driving I'll be the first to admit that I have almost no snow driving experience. The drive to the base of the mountains around Cloudcroft doesn't tend to see a ton of snow and is maintained pretty well, with only the last 16 miles making most of the climbing.

The cabin in question is right in the middle of town. You basically pull off the pavement, drive about 100 feet up a slightly up-hill dirt road but then take a left and go up a fairly steep road that hooks around a corner into the carport of the cabin at the top. I'm going to guess the steep portion is probably 60-75 feet long. The road is like road-base with chunky rocks packed into it. There's a drive before the bend at the top that would allow you to pull in and drive backwards but belongs to another cabin so it can't be blocked.

Is it dumb for me to plan this trip up there with this car? I foresee better tires in my near future but I'm not sure how much of a difference something like Yoko Geolanders would make. Take chains just in case? Bad idea altogether? I dunno. The woman from the property management recommended a 4WD over an AWD but I don't know how seriously to take her.

Sorry so long-winded. Thanks. :)
 

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Seeking the opinions of the many experienced folks around here.

I just took my new 2012 OB to the mountains of Cloudcroft, New Mexico for a short mountain bike trip with a buddy and fell in love with the cabin we stayed in. My wife and I were thinking about heading back up there right after the new year with our 4 year old so he could see the hopefully snowy mountains.

A few things: while I've done a fair amount of mountain driving I'll be the first to admit that I have almost no snow driving experience. The drive to the base of the mountains around Cloudcroft doesn't tend to see a ton of snow and is maintained pretty well, with only the last 16 miles making most of the climbing.

The cabin in question is right in the middle of town. You basically pull off the pavement, drive about 100 feet up a slightly up-hill dirt road but then take a left and go up a fairly steep road that hooks around a corner into the carport of the cabin at the top. I'm going to guess the steep portion is probably 60-75 feet long. The road is like road-base with chunky rocks packed into it. There's a drive before the bend at the top that would allow you to pull in and drive backwards but belongs to another cabin so it can't be blocked.

Is it dumb for me to plan this trip up there with this car? I foresee better tires in my near future but I'm not sure how much of a difference something like Yoko Geolanders would make. Take chains just in case? Bad idea altogether? I dunno. The woman from the property management recommended a 4WD over an AWD but I don't know how seriously to take her.

Sorry so long-winded. Thanks. :)
What is the elevation of the cabin? You should be able to find out what the weather is like in that area at that time. Go to one of the weather websites and type in the name of the town.

If your trying to drive through a foot of snow you might have an issue, especially if you are not experienced. That's why I ask about elevation. Over 2k feet could be am issue in Jan.
 

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I think you hit it on the head with tires. The stock Contis on Outbacks are...well...not the best in snow. On the '08 I used to have, the stock Contis (same as what's on the new ones) were fine in the dry, would get a little squirrely in the wet, and were just plain bad in snow. After the first snowfall with my '08, I chose to replace them with Michelin HydroEdge tires and was very happy with their performance in dry, wet, and snow.

Unless the surface on that last little bit is crazy rocky, I'd be more concerned with the snow/ice/wet weather performance of the tires. I'm not sure off the top of my head, but I don't think that chains are recommended on an OB, largely due to clearance in the wheelwells. If that's the case, the tire choice becomes very important.

If I were in your shoes, I'd do some research, and find some tires that will work for the trip, but not make you regret the tire choice for the rest of the time they are on the car.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I know a fair amount about the town, just not if I can handle this stretch of drive. Cloudcroft is at about 8500 feet. The roads stay clear and are well-maintained. Last year saw about 4-5 inches on the ground before Christmas then about a foot came down. It's pretty random. They had a 100 year blizzard in 2010.

Thanks, soldierguy! That's what I was thinking.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
That's funny, I was just going to grab my keys to get the manual. Fair enough. Thanks. Sounds like a not good time anyway.
 

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Tires help a lot. 4WD won't necessarily get you there, but if 4WD can get you there the Outback might make it just fine. Again, if it's a foot of snow you might still have a clearance problem and that is where the 4WD might get through and the Subie might have an issue.

Also Geolanders haven't had the best reviews for ice.
 

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I'd get some cheap steelies with snow tires if you're unexperienced with driving in snow and have a child. Well, maybe not that extreme, but I wouldn't try it on stock Conti's.
 

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IIRC the manual states that chains cannot be used on the Gen 4 OB
You are right "chains" can not be used becuase of clearance to the fender as what it states. However low profile cables can be used. We have a set from our current outback that worked just fine when we needed them. The owners manual for that one said the same thing. We have only used them once going up a hill that when it snowed during the day we had no problem. However it partialy melted and became an ice sheet. At that point all 4 wheels spun and the car moved downhill while we were pointed up.. :gasp: The car came near inches from wrecking. Have no idea why it stopped. As soon as I got out of the car I fell down from the ice and could not even stand up.

We have a cabin in the mountains and we have to go up and down some fairly steep slopes. Snow is normaly not a problem... It's ice..
 

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IF they traditionally get a lot of snow, it wouldn't surprise me if they have a snowblower to help clear the driveway.. Call the owners of the property and ask them how the weather generally is that time of year and plan from there.

As long as the snow isn't too deep, you should be fine. Just don't get in a hurry and slide off anything. :29:
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Wow, great input everyone.

This isn't like the high rockies or something. The mountains, at least on the east side where I'm coming from, are rolling and there are very very few drop-offs off the side of the road. I can take it quite easy on the pavement and expect roads to be open barring a huge snow dump.

It's this little -1/8 mile side road adventure that's got me curious. And if I slid I would bang my car up on a tree, a cabin, a telephone pole or something like that. WORST case if I got there and it was too treacherous, I could just make a bunch of walking trips to the cabin and leave my car at the bottom. Not idea nor the end of the world.

And yeah, I know the Geolanders aren't great but surely better than the Contis. And the cables sound interesting. Any easier to put on? Which model do you have?

And again, the weather SHOULD bring several inches but COULD bring a foot. Who knows. Cloudcroft, New Mexico Average Monthly Rainfall and Snowfall
 

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That average snowfall thing said 14.3 inches of snow in January and 14.5 inches in February.. That's for the month. So, "on average," that's less than a half inch per day.

If you look at the weekly temperature charts (also linked to on that page), it looks like "most" days were getting well above freezing. That's not to say it all would melt off the next day. But, the temperature swings I was seeing didn't look like "get snow and it hangs around for 3 months, 'til the spring thaw."

I think you're over-thinking / over-planning.. But, that's just me...

Now.. With that said, if you want to reduce the risk of heavy snow AND still see snowy mountains, I bet late March or early April would still have a good bit of snow on the ground, especially at the higher elevations.

You could skip spending a bunch of money on tires on the "chance" that a bunch of snow dumps while you're there or just before you get there and you'd probably still get to see some snow. :29:
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Welllllll, I'm a college professor so this is about my only chance to get out. I've done New Mexico at Spring Break before and it was a sunny, slushy mess.

And I'm getting new tires anyway, so the only real extra money would be on anything else like cables or something.

And I agree that I'm HOPEFULLY over-planning. I just don't like being the ill-prepared tourist. I have family out east and whatever I invest in this will come in handy later.

Thanks again.
 

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Oh, that's understandable! When I go on my little off-roading excursions, I have all sorts of stuff I hope I never need. I just didn't want to see you spend a "bunch" of money on tires "just" for that drive way "if" it happened to have some snow on it..


Good luck and let us know how the trip goes!
 

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I’m at 6200 mean elev Colorado Springs, driven over packed snow/ice on paved streets, and the Contis are fine. It even beats out my 06 Accord on snow tires, the key – Sym AWD. I will say I will swap them out long before they approach the wear bars, but not that you're playing Russian roulette with them. They are fine for general tooling around, swap them out relative to conditions/safety levels you are exposed/comfortable with.<O:p</O:p
<O:p</O:p
I moved from CA to CO and true, snow driving is different.<O:p</O:p
Cloudcroft Jan temps I see swings between 20-50F (+ 1-2 15’s). Not so much altitude but grades are more the concern, see if you can dig up topo maps. 14.4” Jan snowfall, moving around via Google Streetview, off pavement road base, Subaru buyers being of ‘sensible’ demographic = go for it.<O:p</O:p
<O:p</O:p
I can see the 4WD recommendation for the area, that’s the safe bet. Feb temps, more instances below 20 (still +15 though)… sun hits surface 1-2” snow at high-alt and it takes no time to melt that snow.<O:p</O:p
What is that road base composition, does the town have clay soils. Ask Streets Div at what depth snow they clear the main streets, if they don’t at 4” minus it gives a hint it’ll melt through the day.<O:p</O:p
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Jeez, why didn't I think to look at Google Streetview? Nothing steep the whole way besides the driveway in question and luckily Streetview shows snow on the ground looking pretty reasonable. Wish the maps were dated.

They got 30" on Christmas Eve in 2010 and had the coldest days in their history in 2011 so I'm just being cautious with my boy in the car. More worried about head-ons than anything I suppose. The roads are great.
 

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I bet too NM gets west dry more than wet snow. I don’t find this trip daunting (in-town), I’d still have homework to do with to/from town conditions.<O:p</O:p
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I drive from Texas to California on these dates pretty often. We take I-10 through El Paso which isn't too far south at all and there are no issues even below freezing. I could see it getting tricky from Carlsbad up to Artesia where the turn-off to Cloudcroft is, but that seems like a really low likelihood.

And again, the only reason I bring all of this up is because the property management basically said to not rent this particular cabin without a "4WD" and that an "AWD" might not be enough.
 

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Just remember that momentum is key. Growing up in MI my first car was a '79 Firebird with a big block in it. Made it through three winters in high school and only got it stuck when I was messing around in snowy parking lots.

Keep an even speed, don't spin the tires and scout the area before you try anything. If you have to get out and walk the drive way before you attempt anything, do it. 5 minutes of walking may save you from a scratched vehicle and a tow bill. Be deliberate in your driving and confident in your OB.

You should be fine.
 

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I have worked in snow country all my adult life (work at ski areas in the winter...), familiar with Cloudcroft (been there several times in winter) and have owned/operated 4WD as well as my 11 OB. So my two cents... I see nice 4WD and AWD vehicles with very good snow tires wrecked all the time... Over confidence, driving to fast, and driving when should have stopped and walked... With that said, the new OB with stock Conti tires (in good shape) is generally superior (IMO) on icy pavement than a 4WD w/snow tires. If the driveway up to the cabin is icy/slicked out, your are best to park in town and walk up (walk in the snow to the side of the road, not the icy/slick road...) regardless of what vehicle/tires/chains you have. Conditions can get so bad on any icy/slick road that even chains will not allow control of the vehicle and it can slide off... Not tryig to scare you, but this is reality. Now with that said, the Cloudcroft area seldom sees those extreme conditions. As a general rule, if the snow is so slick on the road up to the cabin, why chance driving it ...
 
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