Winter has officially struck in Montana, and with it comes the not-so-ideal road conditions. We've compiled a list of the best advice on how to safely commute through the snow to and from Livingston, Montana, and the infamous Bozeman Pass. For our newest home residents who have never had the privilege of experiencing Montana's gorgeous winter months, these are some of the best tips to keep in mind while you make your way out on snowy roads!
1. Invest in Snow Tires
Maybe a new concept for many, but here in Southwest Montana, we switch our normal tires out for those with studs for added traction in the snow and ice! Helpful on slippery corners and on snowy roads that haven't been plowed yet, winter studded tires can mean the difference between staying on the road or sliding into a ditch or curb. Keep in mind that Montana law prohibits you from keeping these special tires on year-round, and you'll have to switch them back out when late spring comes around allowing these tires from October 1st through May 31st.
2. Watch For Ice
Keep a watchful eye on the temperature and the moisture on the roads. One thing that Montana is notorious for is the build-up of black ice, which is nearly impossible to spot when traveling at highway speeds. The thin layer of ice (usually not from snowfall but rather the re-freezing of melted snow from a day of sunshine on the roadway) is so translucent you can see the roadway beneath it. Closer to Livingston, it is common to see wind-swept snowpack that turns icy and is unable to be plowed off. Pay close attention to those big yellow signs that say, "Watch For Ice On Bridge"; even though the air temperature might be above the freezing point at 32°F, bridges can freeze over with ice.
3. Go Slow & Give Yourself Extra Time
This time of year, Montanans have learned to give themselves extra travel time in case of slow-moving traffic. When driving slow, you give yourself plenty of following distance from the vehicle in front of you. Reading the traffic is the best way to get an idea of how bad the roads are. If your fellow commuters are moving cautiously, there's probably a valid reason why and good practice to follow suit. Remember to slow down significantly if you see any emergency vehicle lights or hazard flashers from other cars, as an accident may have happened and traffic can even be coming to a standstill. Lastly, the snowplow drivers are out there to make the roads safer for everyone. If you happen to get stuck behind one, be patient and try to pass them when it is safe; most times they will pull their blades up and move over to the side of the road to let you pass.
Driving through mountain passes in the wintertime in Montana can be scary and set you back on your schedule. Just keep in mind that we're all in this together! The Montana Department of Transportation has constant road condition updates, live webcams, and a travel map to keep you safe on the roads with live updates both on a web browser and cell phone app. Not the biggest fan of this winter driving? Looking for a seasonal home in the beautiful Paradise Valley or Shields Valley, our Livingston agents are here to help you find that perfect home.