The snow is starting to fall in the mountains, so it may be time for you skiers and snowboarders to start making arrangements to get out to the resorts. Perfect ski conditions do not make for perfect driving conditions, unfortunately, so it’s important to drive up to the mountains in a capable car. We all know that one person who’s been stuck in the snow, driving a front-wheel-drive Honda Fit up a snowy hill backward in a futile attempt to get more traction. Don’t be that person. Bring an appropriately equipped vehicle to the mountains with you. Nothing spoils a ski trip like not making it to the mountain.
Now when we say say appropriately equipped vehicles, we of course mean all-wheel (or 4-wheel) drive. But, that’s not the only thing that will help you on winter roads. Winter tires, good heating and a roof rack are all equally important for your skiing needs. We hope this list will help you narrow down your search for a car to throw your skis on and hit the road (and the slopes).
10. Despite its name, the MINI Countryman offers a fair amount of cargo space (42.5 cubic feet) for a vehicle with a reputation for being small. For your excursions to ski country, we recommend hopping in the S ALL4 trims (or the John Cooper Works, but that price tag is getting a little high) to make sure you get MINI’s all-wheel-drive system. The Countryman also includes an optional cold-weather package, which adds some nice features to battle snowy conditions, including a heated windshield-washer system, power-folding mirrors and heated front seats.
9. The Honda Pilot might just be one of the largest crossovers in production. It can carry up to 8 passengers, which is perfect if you’re bringing a bunch of people to the mountain with you. The Pilot has an optional 4-wheel-drive system that can divert 70% of power from the front to rear wheels when necessary. This, along with its driver-selectable locking mechanism to divert torque to the rear in low gears, makes it extremely viable for traversing hazardous mountain roads. For your large group trips to the resorts, the Pilot is a pretty good choice.
8. We’re sad to say this is the last year the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution will be in production. This Japanese sports sedan may seem like an odd pick for a car to bring to the mountains, but the Evo brings some of the best handling you could ask for in a vehicle. That, along with its all-wheel drive and turbocharged engine, make it a formidable vehicle for the mountains. Unfortunately, the Evo’s cargo space is almost nonexistent, so your best bet would be to invest in a roof rack for your skis. With the Evo, you’ll be sure to reach the mountain with a smile on your face. A big one.
7. Of course Jeep was going to be somewhere on this list, and we’re recommending skiers consider the Jeep Cherokee. Jeep’s newly revived utility vehicle has some of the best features needed to tackle the mountains. Of course, you’ll want to stick with the 4WD trims (we’re not sure why you would buy a Jeep that isn’t 4WD), which offer two 4WD modes: Active Drive I or Active Drive II. The first drives the front wheels, but can throw power to the rear in slippery conditions, while the second is a more traditional 4WD system. The Cherokee even has a selectable Snow mode, which we can see being useful for driving up a snowy mountain.
6. For skiing families, there is perhaps no better choice than the Chevrolet Suburban. Capable of seating 8 and offering 38.9 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, the Suburban has plenty of space for you, your family, your friends and your skis. If you’re going on a longer trip and need the cargo area to store other gear, pop on Chevrolet’s available roof-mounted ski carrier and you’ll be able to transport 6 pairs of skis on the roof. Worried about the snow? The Suburban isn’t. With its available 4-wheel drive, the Suburban takes on winter like few other cars can.
5. If you’re looking for a sensible everyday ride with a little bit of off-road prowess and a lot of luxury, check out the Audi Allroad. Based on the popular A4, the Allroad takes all the A4’s luxury and adds to it skid plates, a wagon body, quattro all-wheel drive and 7.1 inches of ground clearance. That won’t be enough for you to take on the Rubicon Trail, but it will be enough to handle mountain highways and ski-lodge parking lots (which we all know can get a bit dicey). In a hurry to get skiing? The Allroad has you covered—thanks to its 220-hp engine, it can scoot to 60 in 6.4 seconds. We don’t understand why you’d want to hurry, though. Heated seats, automatic climate control and Audi Connect make the inside of the Allroad a great place to spend a few hours checking out glorious mountain views.
4. The Ford F-150 is a great choice for hardcore skiers and snowboarders. All-new for 2015, the F-150 boasts Extended and Crew cab models with 6.5-foot beds, meaning you can fit all your skis, snowboards and other gear in the bed and have plenty of room in the front for friends. Not only that, the F-150 can also get you to some of the most remote ski locations thanks to its impressive off-road abilities (it actually finished the Baja 1000 disguised as a 2014 F-150). If you want to combine hardcore skiing with hardcore off-roading, take a look at the F-150 SVT Raptor (available as a 2014, but not as a 2015); the truck’s 6.2 liters of pure brilliance will get you to places only the bravest of the brave would dare ski or drive.
3. The Toyota 4Runner is among the last of a dying breed: body-on-frame SUVs. Previously competing against the Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser, the 4Runner will enter 2015 as the sole midsize truck-based SUV on sale in the United States, as the Xterra will move over to a unibody construction in 2015, and the FJ Cruiser is getting the axe at the end of 2014. What is so important about body-on-frame construction? It allows SUVs to perform better off-road, as body-on-frame SUVs are essentially trucks with seating for 5 or more and loads of cargo space.The 4Runner is true to its pedigree, offering impressive off-road ability and comfortable seating for up to 7 (although the 5-seat configuration is the only one that allows skiers any serious cargo space). While the SR5, Trail and TRD Pro trims will get you wherever you want to go in relative comfort, step up to the Limited and you’ll be rewarded with heated leather seats and navigation, meaning you’ll be able to get anywhere you want to ski and will get there in total comfort. Add to that the 4Runner’s rock-solid reliability and you’ll always be sure to get home from the mountain in comfort as well.
2. The BMW 3 Series (wagon or sedan, both are good options) is one of the most capable cars available and is definitely a great choice to carry you up to the mountains. Both the wagon and sedan come with available xDrive (BMW’s all-wheel-drive system), both offer BMW’s tremendous level of comfort, and both come roof-rack ready. If you’re the type to bring a BMW to the mountains, the 3 Series is definitely the vehicle for you.
1. When it comes to winter, there is no brand able to tackle it quite like Subaru. While almost all of its cars are superb in snowy conditions, none offer quite the same combination of winter ability and utility as the Subaru Outback. Originally a trim of the Subaru Legacy, the Outback was broken out as its own model in 2000 and hasn’t looked back since. Its standard roof rack and ample cargo room (35.5 cubic feet behind the rear seat) make it a great choice for skiers, as you’ll be able to fit everyone and everything in a car that gets 33 mpg on the highway. Where the Outback really shines, though, is with its standard all-wheel-drive system, which helps the tough Subie keep traction in even the worst of road conditions. If the Outback is a little too big for you, take a look at the smaller Subaru XV Crosstrek (essentially the same concept as the Outback, but based on the Subaru Impreza). Both the Outback and XV Crosstrek offer the same 8.7 inches of ground clearance, which means you’ll be able to get to some of the harder-to-access ski areas, but will still have a smooth and comfortable ride for everyday driving.
Do you have a favorite car for ski trips?
-jharrington and zwaller
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