When it comes to sports cars there are so many fair weather fans, people who will question driving their car if there is even one cloud in the sky. I am definitely not one of them, and those people make me laugh. I once heard a man with a base Porsche Cayman brag about how his car had never seen rain, and I had to walk away so I wouldn’t crack up in his face.
The thing is, fair weather drivers are missing out on one of the most fun driving experiences there is. I’m talking about snow, yes, white, fluffy, salt-laden snow. It comes with some risks, but the rewards are truly special. At the end of the day, a sports car is all about having fun, so why not experience it to the absolute fullest?
Look, I understand not wanting to take risks with a truly special or very rare car. I’m not saying you should take your McLaren F1 or Ferrari 250 GTO out in the snow and salt (if you are so blessed). And sure, if your car already has some corrosion, I understand not wanting to exacerbate the problem. But if you have a fairly new car in good condition, you shouldn’t be afraid to go out and enjoy the winter a few times per year. Whether you have a Miata like me, a Toyota 86, a BMW M3, a Porsche 911, or a Ferrari 488, the snow offers a unique driving experience that is well worth the risk in fun. And why do you have a sports car if not for the one single purpose of having fun?
The Mazda Miata, specifically, is suited for the snow quite well. I don’t just mean in a tangible way but in a deeper ideological way. The Miata is a uniquely zen sort of car, all about throwing any troubles to the wind and enjoying life. It is blissful, it is happy, and it wears a big old smile on its face all the time.
Most people are absolutely miserable during snowstorms. They go about their lives with a sense of inconvenience and fear of what can happen if they venture out into the world. When they do muster up the courage to go out, they do so wearing a big lousy frown on their face. So imagine what they must think when some grinning idiot zooms by them (maybe slightly sideways) in a bright red convertible with the top down. What must be going through their mind?
It’s so cold outside, aren’t you cold?
Clearly not cold enough to warrant dulling my driving experience. It’s funny because this is almost always the first question people ask and the answer should be so obvious: Yes it’s cold out, and no I don’t care.
In reality, with the heat blowing and my seat heaters on it’s really not all that bad in the Miata’s cabin, especially with the windows up. If it’s at or below freezing, maybe I’ll wear a hat.
Your car looks like it keeps sliding out of control, how is that safe?
Well, I’m actually doing that on purpose. It’s called drifting, and it’s a hell of a lot of fun. The car may look like it’s out of control to automotive laymen, but in fact, I am in control of the car while it’s sliding around.
The key to being able to control a small rear-drive car so well in the snow is having the right tires fitted. I have a set of Bridgestone Blizzaks, dedicated snow tires, on the car for the winter, and they make all the difference in the world. Where summer tires are totally useless, and all-seasons struggle, snow tires drive pretty much normally. Even in this rear-drive car with traction and stability control turned off, I have to actually try to get the car to slide around. Then, once a slide is initiated, the car is perfectly controllable. Steering with the throttle is easy as can be because the tires have enough grip.
Wait, did you just say you turn the driver assists off in the snow?
Yes, I did. But that’s something you should only do on the road after you’ve had a lot of practice in empty parking lots. If you’re well-practiced at car control, and your car is equipped with the right tires, turning the driving assists off in the snow is by far the most involving driving experience. You have to be on your toes constantly, sensing every bit of information the car is telling you, and you have to be ready to react to the situation. It is the sort of fun usually reserved for on-limit driving at the racetrack, but during a blizzard, you can experience the thrill of on-limit car control around town at lower speeds.
If you’re a driving enthusiast, you’ll “get it.” If you’re not, you’ll still be wondering why anyone would go driving in a blizzard for fun.
What about damage from salt or collisions?
Is there any excitement without risk? That’s kind of the whole point, and why snow driving is extra fun. In truth, you’re at risk of a collision every time you get in your car, but the odds are a little higher when conditions get slick. If your car is properly equipped, and your driving skills well-honed, then you really just need to worry about other people on the road, and their lack of skills and equipment. In general, I advise giving other people space to screw up and steer clear of normal drivers as much as you’re able.
As for salt, it’s a fact of life in many areas. Definitely take care to wash your car off soon after you’ve had your fun in the storm, and be sure to wash the undercarriage. Again, I’m advocating for doing this a few times per year, washing your car off in between. If you choose to daily drive your car in winter then you may have more issues with corrosion because of it. I do think the fun of snow driving is totally worth dealing with the salt, but just be sure to properly take care of the car in the process.
Do people give you funny looks?
All the time. Nearly everyone you pass will do a double take. Most people look confused, some will laugh and give you a thumbs up, and many will ask you questions if you’re stopped. To some you’ll be a nutjob, to others you’ll be a hero, but seeing people’s reactions only adds to the fun for me.
At the end of the day, I’m someone who always loves to make the best of any situation. I love turning things around and having fun at times when most people are miserable. For many of them, you can see in their reactions, that they realize they don’t have to be so miserable, that they have a choice. In that, I see a Buddhist lesson. Your reality is made up of your own perceptions, and you have a lot more choice in the matter than you might think.
Balancing the karma
Yes, I do go out in the snow just for the purpose of “dicking around,” and yes that may be irresponsible in some regards. I do, however, make it a point to stop and help those in need when I come across them. Over the years, I’ve helped many people get their cars un-stuck, and I like to think that makes up for my mischief.
I’m pretty sure that Mazda wasn’t thinking of snow driving when they designed the original Miata 30 years ago. Yet this small, rear-drive happy-go-lucky roadster feels right at home there, just as it does cruising in the summertime. I learned this in my first black Miata, and I’ve made it a point to set up my current Miata, Ace, for the job.
You really must try it 🙂