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When Studs Go To Waste

In southeastern Connecticut, snow tires have been an investment

If there’s one frustration I’ve discovered about living in coastal Connecticut, it’s that snow tires seem to be a hit or miss option. And so far I’ve only missed.

Four studded snow tires are stacked in the basement of my apartment building, swaddled in plastic sheeting. I first got them when I was working in Maine, after catching the tail end of what I assume is a fairly typical winter experience there. Which is to say it was March and we still got a couple of blizzards. The so-called “all weather” tires could cut it on the main stretches of road, but not so much the secondary roads. These were the places where the plow crews decided that if the roadway wasn't so much cleared as it was groomed and sanded, it would be passable.

When I moved to Connecticut, with its warmer coastal climes and lower latitude, it seemed like putting on the snow tires wouldn’t make much sense. It was chilly but far from wintry around this time two years ago, and I even commented that I sort of missed the snow. But in the end I decided to save some money by skipping the twice-annual tradition of changing out the tires.

Enter a suddenly atrocious winter where feet of snow were getting dumped on the region every few days. Parking bans went out regularly, municipal departments repeatedly warned people about hazardous conditions, and cars spun their wheels trying to climb hills. This may well have contributed to my early decision to walk to places instead of drive.

Lesson learned. The next winter, I set up a time with a garage to switch out the tires. There wasn’t so much as a flake on the ground, but I didn’t want a repeat of the prior year. I drove off with a lightened wallet and the hum of the studs on bare pavement.

So of course we wound up with one of the mildest winters I’ve ever seen. I think it snowed maybe twice, with one storm occurring on a weekend when I didn’t have to drive. The snow tires came in handy exactly once, when I went to Connecticut College and found that the parking lot was still fairly snowy.

So as I’m writing this, early in the past week, it again seems like a flip of the coin type of scenario. It’s been fairly mild so far but, like last year, we got an early snowstorm and cold snap. Friends in more northerly climes are already sharing photos of the winter wonderland some blizzards have left behind. And I’ll be heading up that way before long to visit family for Christmas. So I guess I’ll put the coin away and call up the garage.

Hey, third time’s the charm.

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