Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Winter Access - the ongoing challenge

We knew going in that winter access to our property was going to be an ongoing challenge. Through the years, we have tried different approaches with varying degrees of success.  One of the main issues is not living up on the property full time to keep the roads open in the winter.  The first couple of years, before the cabin build was started, we stayed in the 32' travel trailer and 'dry' camped on weekends through the winter. We were able to keep the road open by using a plow on the front of the truck as long as we kept up with the snow as it fell. Once the snow accumulated between plowing we tried a large snow blower and our tractor with chains and a blade.  As long as we were only maintaining the lower road with access to the trailer, we managed pretty well even in the worst weather.  Once we started on the cabin build, we needed access from an  upper road, and we very soon found out we could not keep both roads open not being up on the property full time.  Since we would only go up on the weekends, we would literally spend the entire weekend just trying to clear the roads for access.  This was very hard on the equipment, the snow plow on the truck, the snow blower, and the tractor.

RV Cover and Truck with Snow Blade

After a season or two after the cabin build was started, we decided that since we were not going to be up there full time in the winter to try and maintain the roads, we decided to not even try to keep the roads open and plowed.  One year we only had access by snowshoes, that wasn't very much fun. The next year, we tried leaving a snowmobile parked down the mountain in a trailer, where we could park the truck and drive the rest of the way in with the snow mobile. That didn't work very well either as the trailer got snowed in and we would have to spend an hour or so digging out the trailer just to get to the snowmobile. Once we got the snowmobile, even it got stuck. I once got the runner stuck on a tree under the snow and had to walk back to the cabin in 3 feet of snow to get a come-a-long to pull me out.  I am a bit hesitant about snowmobiles. Someone once said that you should never drive any farther on a snowmobile than you are willing to walk back when it breaks down. I can attest to that.

Utility Trailer with Snowmobile inside !

Snowmobiles are great - until they ain't!

So it has been a real dilemma trying to figure out the best way to have reliable access in the winter where we can bring in multiple people, food and supplies, in any kind of weather and in any amount of snow. This year, I think I finally found the perfect solution. I purchased a Polaris RZR with snow tracks.  This is a 2-seater, side-by-side UTV with the wheels replaced in the winter with snow tracks. I put the regular wheels on in the summer to run around and work the property and then in winter the tracks go on. These tracks are amazing and it doesn't matter how much snow there is, it just rides on top. I don't even need a road and can go cross-country on the snow if I want to.  I also added a V-Plow on the front so I can plow if I want to , or just use the V-plow to push snow aside if there is lots of powder.  This is the ideal setup for reliable winter access in any kind of weather and in any amount of snow.  The Polaris also has a built-in heater so it is a comfortable ride even on the coldest days.

The ultimate Winter Access
Polaris RZR 800 with Tracks and V-Plow

Winter Access Problems - NO MORE !

The only remaining problem is where to park the UTV in the winter. I tried parking down at the bottom of the mountain as some of the other locals have done for years. Well, I guess the landowner who owns the spot where I parked didn't want anyone to park there any more so he went ahead and buried my UTV under the snow as a subtle hint that I am not to park there.  Luckily, after digging enough to get into the UTV and getting it started, it crawled right out of the snow pile like it was no problem.  I had to find another spot to park the UTV, so I left it at the entrance to our top property entrance. Even though this was a fairly remote area, someone still tried to break into it while it was parked there.

This year, I am going to try to park the UTV on my lower property under the RV cover.  I will be able to park my truck at the road entrance and will have to snowshoe in about 1/2 mile to get to the UTV, but at least it will be in a secure place. I can then ride the UTV back to where the truck will be parked, load up any people, equipment or supplies.

Lastly, since the UTV is only a 2-seater, I purchased a sled that I can take additional people, equipment or supplies as needed. Hopefully this will be the best solution for my winter access going forward.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!!

Here's a YouTube video of a trip up to the cabin in February 2020...

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