I have been a Teton Pass commuter off and on since I moved to Teton Valley. Years ago I had a few bumper stickers made that read “Teton Pass Get Over it” it was a little play on words, I was tired of people asking me how “the pass” was everyday when I got to work, usually by somebody who was fortunate enough to be able to afford to live and work in the same valley.
Teton Pass is pretty much the same everyday during the winter, its snow covered and/or icy, a majority of the drivers are not prepared and are not good at driving in the conditions.
Here is what I have learned so far in driving over “the pass”.
-All wheel drive or four wheel drive will make your commute a piece of cake. Sure you can make it over the pass with a two wheel drive vehicle especially with newer models featuring traction control, but when things get really nasty, cars off the road, large drifts, snowplow plows you in while you are out skiing, you will be glad you have the extra traction.
-Snow tires! If you are only going to do one thing to prepare for winter driving on Teton Pass then buy a pair of snow tires. A good set of dedicated snow tires will do amazing things to the traction and handling of your vehicle. Every aspect of how your vehicle handles will be improved, acceleration, braking, and cornering. With a set of snow tires I feel comfortable driving the speed limit no matter the road conditions. If it were up to me everyone driving Teton pass would be required to have snow tires on their vehicle.
-Emergency kit. At the very least carry some extra water, clothing, and a shovel in your vehicle. If the weather forecast and driving conditions warrant throw in a sleeping bag, flashlight, extra food etc. All of the above have come in handy for me at some point. One night coming home late an avalanche blocked the road just minutes before I got there and I ended up having to sleep in a parking lot, but I had my sleeping bag in the back otherwise that would have been a long night.
-Turbo. Ok this one is just personal preference. I am on my third Subaru that I have used to drive over (95 Legacy, 2000 Outback, 2005 Outback XT) The latest Subaru is a used 2005 XT Limited Turbo Outback it is by far the best car I have owned for driving over Teton Pass. As all Outbacks it features all wheel drive, but the standout feature for me is the turbo charged engine. My other Subaru’s were “adequate” for getting up the hill but the XT is amazing, it is so much better than my previous cars that it doesn’t even feel like it is made by the same company. Other nice options for winter driving that the XT has are heated wiper blades, no more flicking your wipers against your windshield while driving and rear locking differentials. I have some experience with rear lockers on my truck and think that now truck or SUV should be without them but was surprised to see them on a Subaru, but man are they great. No matter how deep or slippery it gets your rear wheels just keep on turning.
Thats my two cents about winter commuting on the pass. See you up there.