A friend recently went to Ely with her family to embrace a white, wintry world. On their way home, they encountered the dark side of freezing temps: black ice. They were heading south when they witnessed — and nearly were part of — a frightening crash. A fast-moving car overtook them, hit a patch of ice and somersaulted into the ditch. Luckily, all of the people in the affected vehicle were wearing seat belts and escaped relatively unscathed.

With low gas prices, stubbornly high airfares and the deepest snow in Minnesota’s northern reaches, there is no doubt that many of us will hit the road in weeks to come. If you do, please drive with care.

Before you head out for a long trip Up North, check out winter driving tips at Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s website (www.dps.mn.gov). The list contains a few obvious points, such as “increase safe stopping distance between vehicles.” But there were a few surprises. I didn’t know to avoid cruise control on wet or icy roads.

Last year, I eased up the Gunflint Trail as big gobs of snow fell. An SUV zipped around me and was out of sight in minutes. When I relayed that story to my hostess, she told me that the locals have a saying: You can always tell the tourists — they’re the ones driving too slow in summer and too fast in winter. She explained that visitors from the Cities don’t always understand the ways winter can wreak havoc on a drive. Moose stand in the middle of the road as they lick salt, sometimes just around a bend. Mounds of snow hide steep ditches just feet from the ribbon of asphalt.

When it comes to winter driving, we’re all Minnesotans — we are the locals — so we know to take care during our winter drives, wherever they take us.


Send your questions or tips to travel editor Kerri Westenberg at travel@startribune.com, and follow her on twitter @kerriwestenberg.