Sunshine or snow, if you love it, you wheel.
The weather outside is frightful and it has more than likely been snowing on and off for weeks. At this point, you may miss the fun times of summer and want to get outside in your off-road rig. Good news, winter wheeling can be a fun “cabin fever” breaker for some and, for others, a first and last time experience.
There’s only one way to find out which person you are: attend one of the major winter events on the MN4WDA Calendar.
Where to Winter wheel
Apple Valley Farms outside Chetek, WI, (approximately 1.5 hours from the Twin Cities) hosts a Winter Wheeling event in late February, and MN Go 4 Wheelers host an event in early March in Dresser, WI, at Trollhaugen Memorial Racetrack (open to members of clubs that are members of the MN4WDA or WI4wda or MidWest Four Wheel Drive Association).
There are other options for private groups, as some clubs will organize a trail ride to the Gandy Dancer or other rustic road cruises.
Additionally, Iron Range OHV Rec Area and Appleton Area Rec Park are open year-round.
What to expect
Trail rides usually start out on a cold dark winter morning. You fire up the rig and all the fluids are so thick that it feels that you are going to break a drive shaft getting things to move. A few hours later, you might be peeling layers of clothes off because you are overheating from the sun reflecting off the snow.
Weather conditions and snow conditions influence the outcome of the day. Snow can hide obstacles like stumps, rocks and deep holes, hills can be like a slip and slide, and trees may come closer than you like.
What to Prepare Before you Go
One can experience all weather conditions during a single day of winter in the Midwest.
First bring along plenty of water, food, and some recovery gear.
Second, think about safety. It’s a recommendation to never go on an adventure alone, anytime, but especially in winter. Especially because weather conditions and temperature can play a big part of the day or weekend.
Winter Wheeling includes all the variables of any off-road adventure, which are then exaggerated by the wet and slippery conditions ice and snow bring to the trails. Just like any off-road adventure, so many things can happen to change the outcome of your day.
Fun or Folly?
At an organized trail ride, the variety of vehicles attending widely vary. We will see daily drivers to trail-built rigs coming out of hibernation. Add in the conditions from what feels like long Winter, and then the possibility of mechanical challenges, and your winter Wheeling experience can be fun or a folly.
From many years of personal experience, the best winter wheeling scenario is when the temperature stays the same throughout the day. We have been wheeling out in Chetek, WI, and the temperature rose about 30 degrees Fahrenheit by noon, and the good, sturdy snow turned to sugar snow and lost all structural integrity. This adventure ended in the crew and I nearly getting stuck in the valley out on the Pasture Trail. Trail conditions degraded so badly that the group had to get one vehicle with a winch and tow straps to the top of the hill. The rest of the group attempted to make it up the steep banks and a majority of the crew had to get help the rest of the way with the assistance of a winch or tow strap.
You never know what the day will bring until you are back at the parking lot with your rig. Whatever happens during the day, you will no doubt have great pictures and many stories to tell for many seasons.