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SMALL snow cars

post #1 of 155
Thread Starter 
Richie-Rich has his BIG SUV thread. I thought it would be good to have one for the less-is-more crowd.

The question is, how small do you go? Let's hear from some folks who use small cars to get to the hill. How do you do it? How small is small? What kind of gas mileage do you get? Do you hitch a ride? How do you carry all of your gear?

To start: I drive an 04 Focus. I put a box on top for skis. I'm able to carry everything for two people easily for the day and for extended trips with a little care in packing. It has more interior room for skis and junk than my GFs Land Rover Discovery (which she no longer owns).

The FWD with snows works great. I've never had a problem except the time I got high centered, and AWD would not have helped there. I get about 33 MPG on the highway. The thing holds the road really well and is fun to drive up winding mountain roads.

I find that I'm one of the few people to drive a smaller car to the ski area. Most of the vehicles are SUVs or 4WD pickups. Seems like a waste to me.
post #2 of 155
i wish honda would sell the 4wd version of the fit in america. that would be ideal.
post #3 of 155
I'm not sure my (HATED!) Audi A6 counts as a small car. The mileage isn't spectacular. However, with the pass-through ski sack it can seat four people relatively comfortably, along with four sets of reasonably-sized () skis.

Unfortunately, the ski sack doesn't accomodate snowboards, so we have to fold down one of the back seats if we're going to bring a knuckle-dragger.

Also, despite its faults, the Audi Quattro system handles beautifully on winding mountain roads and in snow and ice.
post #4 of 155
This might work:


And if it gets stuck you and the passenger can probably pick it up and carry it on your back.
post #5 of 155
A good friend of mine used to have a WRX that he basically did a Stage 3 everything on. We're talking over 425 horses, here. It impressed the hell out of me & made me want to get a WRX wagon, lift the sucker 2 inches, get some sick tires and a low-pro box for up top and get to the mountain rally-style.
post #6 of 155
My 94' volvo 850 w/ blizzaks is probably the best snow car i've driven. and I owe it all to the tires and the not light weight of the car (3342lbs). I routinely find myself passing every car on the way up to the pass. I almost never find the conditions too slick to drop below 50. I get 28 MPG
post #7 of 155
I like small wagons, I have a Mazda6 wagon. I can take myself & 2 others skiing with the skis stored inside.

I've rented the 2008 Toyota RAV4 in both SLC & Denver. The base inline4 works well enough, much to my suprise. It can carry 3 people plus gear easily. Fuel economy was about 20 mpg.

I've also driven a few other Cute 'Utes, but this one gets my vote.

Michael
post #8 of 155
I'm one who wants small cars. After all, I have to occasionally park it on the street of Manhattan! Unless you've tried it, you wouldn't know how frustrating it feels, after circling the block for the 3rd time, you found a spot that's just 1" too short for your "mid-size" land yatch!

It's not so much the size, it's the winter road performance I care about. And lets be honest, that's what a lot of skiers DO care about...

I just don't have a problem with gear space. I've hauled 3 people and our 2 pairs of skis (each!) in my Toyota Camry without bothering with a rack! So I don't need anything bigger, just better snow performance. Unfortunately, if I want to go AWD/4WD, I'm stuck with choices (I should rephrase: lack of choices) that burns a lot more gas than the Camery...

AWD/4WD just don't come in small packages. Since my car is used both summer and winter, it's too expensive to go with the heavy gas guzzlers all summer long only for the few times I need the 4WD in winter.

(there're a few AWD "smaller" cars out there but none of them are cheap. -- I'd rather saved the moeny and use it for ski trips out west: if I can manage not to waste $5000 extra on a luxury car, I can afford to heliski once or twice! )

As it stands, my next car is likely a small FWD car, with winter tires in winter.
post #9 of 155
i drive an 04 subaru wrx sti. throw on a ski rack (i had the hook under the window-sill type and it BLEW OFF on the freeway... after the repairs, i dremelled and bent some yakima q-tower clips all custom-like and fastened them to fixed cleats under the weather strips on the roof... not that i usually speed, but now i CAN hit 100+ mph on the highway out to mammoth, which is WINDY, with five skis on the rack with NO worries... i can shake the whole car violently holding the crossbars and there is NO play in it) and some tires with the severe service emblem (snowflake on the mountain... i went with nokian wr's, which i believe are the ONLY all season tire to recieve that certification, but they can still be driven in the summer and get 40k miles out of 'em) and i can push snow with my bumper all day long. seriously. i carry cables as an added precaution. but on just ONE day this season, i passed at least 40+ cars that had to put on chains, many of which were 4x4 trucks. pathetic... the only thing that would limit this car when it is setup this way is ground clearance. more than a foot and a half of snow on the roads (i know... what road doesn't get cleared after that much snow?) and you're probably in some trouble.

mileage? not good. 20mpg combined b/w the highway, climbing, and then decent (i've noticed that the climb/decent just about balances out in terms of mileage if you drive it right). at least i think that's terrible for a 4-banger compact... granted, it DOES have a lot of "uneccessary" performance. but still, i can comfortably take 4 people for a day of riding locally, and 3 people for an out of town trip.
post #10 of 155
Winter tires make all the difference. Really 4wd really only helps you get traction, if you loose it having every wheel spinning isn't making a difference.
post #11 of 155
Suzuki has a small AWD car.

VW R32 isn't huge.
post #12 of 155
any 4 cyl hatchback/station wagon would probably make a good ski car.

seen the new Honda CRV on the street and it sure has grown up in styling. not sure if it;s still 4 cyl though.

Rode in a new RAV too but at near 30,000$ fully loaded, I don;t think it qualifies anymore.
post #13 of 155
99 VW Jetta TDI 50mpg hwy

needs four snows to really get around without any problems.

I fold the back seat flat and load it up and go.

Roof racks cost me at least 10 mpg.

258,000 miles and counting
post #14 of 155
Tek,
I've got a 2007 CRV, it's a 4 cyl with AWD. I have a Thule pod on the roof and get 24 MPG all day long. Summer mileage is 27-32 depending on my foot with or without bikes on the roof.

Plenty of room inside, even with the back seat tied up with child safety seats. While not technically "small" it does fall into the c-ute sized genre. I downsized from a 4x4 Trailblazer.

I put the pod on the roof, cause with the kids in the back and skis in the pass through I was uncomfortable in the event of an accident. Safer to put the skis, poles and excess overhead and remove it from the equation.
post #15 of 155

2002 Golf

I drive a 2002 VW Golf 2 door, it works well for 3 as a ski car. Running a Thule 6 pack rack on top, but will probably buy a box for next season. Cargo room isn't great, especially if you like to be prepared like me, but it works pretty well for a weekend with 2 or 3 people. I haven't been running winter tires, mostly because I'm slightly poor, being in university and all, but these Nokian WRs are intriguing me.

Mileage is usually around 33mpg, and gets about %10 better if I take the rack off. I have noticed some weird wind buffeting in areas with large crosswinds with the rack fully loaded, but no more than my Mum's Volvo wagon gets.
post #16 of 155
any small FWD will do here is what I would do IMO in order of importance.

narrow skinny snow tires mounted on stock rims, studs if you have no chains laws no studs if you have chain laws.

LimitSlip differential this will make you car 2wd and not 1wd. I have one on my integra and will never own a FWD or RWD car with out it.

Lastly chain just in case, I hate chain laws they service the LCD of drivers, but in cases like the alta gathering this year, I got up the road when alot of other did not, including 4wd.
post #17 of 155
I have a 2002 Honda civic 2 door, three people and luggage, with skis inside (fold down 1/3 of the rear seat. I get about 32 MPG (cruise control set around 60).
I don't have snow tires but I have four chains and put them on when necessary.

Car works very well for me. I routinely pass SUV's off in the ditch.

Dave
post #18 of 155
The wagon gets ~25 mpg and the sedan ~27 if kept within legal speed limits. The AWD and Nokian winter tires let me plow through bumper-top drifts.




We averaged 24 mpg in the wagon on our 3000-mile roundtrip to Breck last month with half a dozen pairs of skis, couple pairs of boots, coolers of foodstuffs and multiple bags of luggage.

The Suburban only gets about 12 mpg and rarely is driven for anything except huge hauling projects.

We also have two Audi V8s that get around 23 mpg. When you have old Audis you have to have backups for repair times.
post #19 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by lukc View Post

mileage? not good. 20mpg combined b/w the highway, climbing, and then decent (i've noticed that the climb/decent just about balances out in terms of mileage if you drive it right). at least i think that's terrible for a 4-banger compact... granted, it DOES have a lot of "uneccessary" performance. but still, i can comfortably take 4 people for a day of riding locally, and 3 people for an out of town trip.
That's really interesting for MPG. Any mods on the car? When we go up to VT to go skiing, our Grand Cherokee gets the exact same mileage (20mpg). It sounds like the terrain your driving on has a lot to do with the MPG. Well, I'm assuming...and we all know what assuming gets me.
post #20 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson View Post
The wagon gets ~25 mpg and the sedan ~27 if kept within legal speed limits. The AWD and Nokian winter tires let me plow through bumper-top drifts.




We averaged 24 mpg in the wagon on our 3000-mile roundtrip to Breck last month with half a dozen pairs of skis, couple pairs of boots, coolers of foodstuffs and multiple bags of luggage.

The Suburban only gets about 12 mpg and rarely is driven for anything except huge hauling projects.

We also have two Audi V8s that get around 23 mpg. When you have old Audis you have to have backups for repair times.
Sweet cars! I had an 84 5000s back in the day. Gotta love the inline 5!
post #21 of 155
03 2 door civic hx manual transmission. They discountinued this model when they came out with the hybrid, stupid honda. It has a smaller motor than a normal civic so it get between 40-45 every time. I got 49 on a tank once with flat highway driving but with snow tires in the winter it's more like 40-43.


This car did fine on 70 and berthoud all winter, I never missed a storm and skied 130 days. I only say this as I really don't think awd or 4wd are needed. These car companies lead us to beleive we need it but guess what, fwd with good snows does the trick.

I don't get the 4wd
post #22 of 155
Up until this year, my ski car was always my '97 Integra with snow tires on it. Took it lots of places, Whistler, Utah, etc. Never had any problems with it, but never drove anywhere during a huge dump. Usually got around 27/28 mpg with a full load and a rack on, I can get 35 mpg with no rack and cruise control on the highway.

However, we moved up this year to an Outback which I love. The Integra is fine for just 2 people, but can't do more than that for any length of time (the back seat is pretty tiny). I still take the Integra up to the mountains if it's just me and someone else, though. They take good enough care of the roads here in WA that the snow tires do fine. And it was great when I lived in OR 'cause ODOT lets you use snow tires instead of chains, except during a "conditional road closure" where *everyone* needs chains even if you have 4WD. Although I never saw that happen near either Mt. Hood or Bachelor while I lived there. So, with the snow tires, I never had to chain up once in OR.
post #23 of 155

Looking to downsize

My ski car is actually my wife's Subaru Legacy wagon. I prefer a smaller car as a daily driver, so have a Subaru Impreza sedan.

We were recently at the local Sub dealer checking out the new Impreza wagon. I think it may be my next ski car.... although at this point, anything is possible. Right now the two of us basically just chuck everything we can think of in the back of the Legacy and pack it up pretty tight. I think we can pare down a bit and fit it all in the new Imp wagon.

I don't know if the Legacy qualifies as a small ski car but I can't imagine ever wanting anything larger. Maybe if I had to take a bunch of peeps or tow a trailer, but with just the two of us I put a medium size Thule box on top and have no problem carting around five pair of skis, three pair of poles, two pair of boots, plenty of food and water, a couple of sleeping bags and enough clothes and stuff to be gone a fortnight or longer.

I don't have a ton of experience with big SUVs but I do have some. I'm comfortable doing fourteen hour days in the Legacy... I can't imagine what that would be like in a behemoth.

Can't say that I drive a car rather than a truck for reasons of economy though, the Legacy gets 21-24 on my ski trips. The Imp gets less than that as a daily driver. I like small cars because I like to drive
post #24 of 155

50MPG Subaru Diesel

I was hoping to purchase this 50MPG Subaru Diesel next year in NY State.
Unfortunatly the darn price of Diesel fuel is going up faster than gas. Honda may also sell their Europe diesel cars in the USA next year.
post #25 of 155
Heck, my Caprice Wagon gets 25 mpg if kept within legal speed limits (that happens a lot. It doesn't even have limited slip, let alone 4 wheel drive, but it has yet to be stuck, even after a 40 cm dump of snow on my unplowed road. They plowed it eventually, but it's not a top priority for the city.
post #26 of 155
Alfa Brera 3.2V6 - it's 4WD, has a ski tunnel, and style.
post #27 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post
Alfa Brera 3.2V6 - it's 4WD, has a ski tunnel, and style.
We don't have Alfas in the US, so...
post #28 of 155
The first time I went to colorado I was shocked at the size of the cars, most of which would never fit in a parking space here in England. My Ford Fiesta would look like a toy if I dove it over there and at at 75HP would probably not make it up the first hill on the way to the resort at altitude!

I got a Fiesta as a hire car when I was skiing in europe and it handled the snow really well with winter tyres. Small, front engine, fwd, narrow tyres does well in snow but getting skies over 165 in is a challenge!
post #29 of 155
Quote:
Originally Posted by epic View Post


We don't have Alfas in the US, so...


They're going to bring them back to the states soon IIRC.
post #30 of 155
This is mine, Volvo C30 T5 2.5l turbo, 2 door, 4 seater with a seriously small boot, but with the back seats down we get in skis, and gear for 2 for a long weekend without putting anything on the roof. The road to our ski fields is quite steep and very windy, but my husband says the C30 is a lot more fun to drive than his old Outback. Plus it's got heater leather seats.

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