Hummer Happening: Ice Driving

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I have been waiting a long time for this event! Every year we have a conflict. Not this year. Today was the annual Hummer Ice Driving Academy on Georgetown Lake.

The day starts with a catered breakfast while learning about ice driving skills. Bill, the guy that teaches the class, has dozens of years in law enforcement and teaches this course to law enforcement from all over that come to Colorado to learn to drive on ice.

My turn!

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After accelerating across the lake and getting up to about 30-40 MPH, it is time to test the ABS. This is the first exercise. Nothing like going into a long skid and feeling this heavy truck really come to a stop. After taking the morning class, you learn how amazing and precise ABS is (or needs to be). When you think of ABS you normally think about it keeping your wheels from locking up…which is good. But I learned that ABS is also working to keep your tires rotating and the correct speed. When your wheels are not up to the proper rotation speed that matches the speed of the truck, the tires have no grip. So the goal of ABS is to keep the brakes from locking up but also keep from slowing the rotation down too much or you lose grip. A fine balancing act!

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Around the back side of the lake, there were various cones setup that you had to weave through. The exercise was to correct your truck from oversteer or understeer conditions. I am pretty good at this. My natural reaction matched what we were supposed to do. The only thing I learned that I wasn’t aware of was how weight transfer places a key role in ice driving. When you acclerate, you put more weight on the rear tires. And when you break, you put more weight on the front tires. This is sort of obvious given how your body moves when you perform these actions. But the trick is to combine acclerating or breaking with correction of oversteer or understeer conditions. In each of those, one set of tires doesn’t have the grip you need so you can turn as well as apply the gas or brake depending on which tires to gain additional grip. Your natural reaction will tell you that accelerating when you lose grip isn’t the obvious thing to do. But that is why they have the class so you can practice in a no worry situation.

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Is this safe? That is always the number 1 question in class. Well, nothing is 100% sure but ice thickness is pretty well known. The US Army Corps of Engineers puts out ratings. The ice today was 17″ thick on average. So according to the charts, that ice will hold up over 10 tons of weight. In comparison, it takes 2 inches of ice to hold up a human.

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Here is a view from inside while doing another lap. I got to do the course about a dozen times. It was pretty fun to have such a heavy truck on a sheet of ice. You could break it loose and get it sliding and then correct it pretty easily. The traction control on this truck is pretty amazing and really takes a lot of the fun out of it.

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So the next time, when we have one of those icy nights, I will be better prepared to get where I am going safely…or at least correct myself when I am driving like a nut! 🙂