Steamboat Springs, ColoradoToyota recently invited me to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to attend a winter driving school and put a RAV4 and a Prius to the test.

Bridgestone Winter Driving School

The Bridgestone Winter Driving School is located in the mountains of northwest Colorado in beautiful Steamboat Springs since 1983. Only 160 miles from Denver, Steamboat Springs is easily accessible from Denver. Airline transportation is available directly to the Yampa Valley Regional Airport (HDN) from 15 major cities. I flew into Steamboat Springs on Alaska Airlines from San Diego and then when it was time to go I had to fly through Denver to connect back to Portland.

The Bridgestone Winter Driving School office is located at 2300 Mount Werner Circle, at The Shops at The Steamboat Grand, at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. After you check in at this office they shuttle you the students from the office/classroom to the snow and ice driving facility which is located a few miles west of downtown Steamboat Springs. WARNING: Once you are out at the snow and ice track there are only port-a-potties.

ICE TRACK FACILITY

The Steamboat Ski Area provides a beautiful backdrop and offers fantastic photo opportunities at their unique 77-acre driving campus. I never would have guess their campus was this large. It felt small when I attended. The campus includes three purpose-built ice and snow covered tracks designed to challenge all drivers. Again, when I found this out I was surprised. We were on the same track all day. I am unsure if they mean three sections make up the track I was on or if there were two other courses I didn’t experience.

The tracks get slippery, they coat them with more than 250,000 gallons of reclaimed water. The track has challenging banked and off- cambered corners with numerous elevation changes. Snow banks provide an extra margin of safety by clearly defining the course and separating oncoming lanes. At an elevation of 6,900 feet, the Bridgestone Winter Driving School is the ideal facility for high altitude automotive testing.

The Experience

The overall goals are to help people build car control techniques that incorporate precision, perfection, and smoothness.

There are different levels and I only experienced up to the second level, “Second Gear”. I was with a mix of people that had experience in this type of environment and some that had little to no experience in this type of environment. I drive through all kinds of terrible weather and found the level two not to be challenging enough. However, that isn’t the purpose of the school. The purpose of the school is to educate.

During the experience I drove two vehicles a Rav4 and a Prius. Both were outfitted with Bridgestone Blizzak tires. Both vehicles handled extremely well on the track. 
 
Second Gear, the class I took is their most popular winter driving course. It is designed to allow you to develop the reflexes and muscle memory needed to perform the basic skills offered in their First Gear program, as well as accident avoidance techniques at an intuitive level. This is achieved through more advanced hands-on training and generous practice sessions on our track. This class is offered seven days a week during our season from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, and lunch is provided. 
 
For lunch they offer an assortment of sandwiches and salads. I went with a salad and it was excellent!
 
The cost to attend Second Gear is $549.

2019 RAV4The Rav4 in Lunar Rock with Ice edge roof

The best-selling SUV in the U.S., the all-new 2019 RAV4 boasts a new exterior design, two new performance-enhancing powertrains and off-road capabilities with its powerfully efficient All-Wheel Drive system.The RAV4 hybrid, expands its model lineup, with an all-new sporty hybrid trim, XSE HV. Prices start at $25,500.

2019 RAV4 Changes:

I got to try out all the upgrades on the snow and ice track. Here are my favorite things they’ve changed or added.

  • 19” alloy wheels
  • Panoramic glass sunroof with front power tilt/slide moonroof,
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Rear seat vents
  • Toyota safety sense 2.0 with lane tracing will set the center line with the vehicle in front of you if there are no lines for the vehicle to detect. 
  • New grill
  • 2.3” more ground clearance and slightly wider
  • Digital rear view mirror
  • Birds eye view, back up camera
  • Chrome Exhaust tips
  • Qi Wireless Charger
  • Apple Car Play – FINALLY!!!!!Toyota 2019 RAV4

The RAV4 hybrid gets 41/38/40 mpg.

The Adventure model can tow 3500lbs, has trailer sway control, and is higher off the ground.

 

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0

I briefly mentioned this above, but Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is an assortment of safety features. I love these types of features on cars, so wanted to highlight them. If you are a parent shopping for a car for your teen it’s these features that I find the most important. Both the RAV4 and the Prius have this.

Pre-Collison System w/ Pedestrian Detection with the following:

  • Enhanced speed reduction capabilities
  • Pedestrian Detection in low-light – New
  • Day-Time Cyclist Detection – New

Road Sign Assist (RSA) – This is a new feature. This will help you always know what the speed limit is!
Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) – New
Lane Departure Alert (LDA) w/steering assist – The car will steer itself back into the lane. 

Automatic High Beams – the lights will automatically switch back and forth for you.
Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control – This allows the car to speed up or slow down with traffic while keeping you in cruise. 

2019 Prius AWD-e

2019 Prius AWD-e

The 2019 Prius AWD-e in Blizzard Pearl.

The new 2019 Prius AWD-e (“e” stands for electric) costs around $26,380 and boasts a 25% smaller hybrid engine with an estimated 50 combined mpg. The Prius AWD-e is in hybrid only when drive 6 miles per hour or less. From 6-43 miles per hour it switches in and out of hybrid. Once you are over 43 miles per hour it is front wheel drive only.

Toyota has made some interesting changes like storage pockets on back of the front seats that you can close with a zipper. I’m personally not into this feature. I get super creeped out sticking my hands in places where I can’t see what might be in there. This is due to having children. 

Obviously, since it’s in the name now they’ve made it AWD, which is a huge deal where I live. Here in Portland every other person seems to drive a Prius. I can see first hand the many benefits of having an AWD version with our bizarre weather which includes snow and ice and of course skiing up on Mt. Hood.

I have to mention that this version of the Prius seats 5 people. My biggest issue with the Prius Prime was that the back row only sat 2 people. This isn’t an issue in this one. 

During the ice driving school they told me to floor it, well I floored the Prius and didn’t break 35 MPH, but supposedly it can go Zero to 60 mph: 10.6 seconds off the ice.

Here’s a video of the whole experience.