Mountain rental car companies urge visitors to get a car with snow tires |

Mountain rental car companies urge visitors to get a car with snow tires

A passenger truck drives on Interstate 70 on Tuesday near Silverthorne.
Liz Copan /

FRISCO — A visiting family lands at Denver International Airport, ready for a ski trip in Summit County. They rent an all-wheel-drive SUV, which typically doesn’t come with snow tires, and begin the trip up Interstate 70. 

When the family arrives, they try to reach the cabin they rented only to find that they can’t make the drive up the sometimes unplowed road and driveway without sliding backward. 

Pete Griff, owner of Breckenridge Rental Car, said this is the most common call he gets.

“People get an SUV from the airport, and they can’t get to their place in Blue River,” Griff said.

As one of the few rental car companies that has snow tires on every car, Griff said he has often rented to people who already have another car from a Denver rental company that doesn’t offer snow tires.

“We’re operating in the mountains, so snow is something we deal with day in and day out,” Griff said. 

Griff said snow tires are particularly important for rental cars because a lot of visitors are not used to driving in the snow. Even if there isn’t a blizzard, he said, it helps improve traction in mild winter weather. 

“Safety is the main concern,” he said. “We want to make sure people can get to and from where they’re going safely. We want to afford people every opportunity to bring that car back in one piece.”

Another local rental company, Mountain High Rentals, rents all-wheel drive vehicles, some of which do have snow tires, owner Hampton Meyer said.

Of the local chain rental car companies, Hertz Car Rental officials said they could not guarantee snow tires, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car officials said all of their vehicles at the Silverthorne location have snow tires.

Griff recommends people flying into DIA take a shuttle to the mountains instead of driving themselves, and then rent a car with snow tires after arriving in Summit County.

Traction law aims to reduce crashes

Snow tires are even more important now that Colorado has enacted traction laws nine months out of the year. The new rules were signed into law in May after a particularly heavy snow season.

Signs along the interstate notify drivers that traction laws are in effect from September to May, requiring that all vehicles have snow tires, tires with a mud-snow designation, four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. In addition, all tires must have three-sixteenths of an inch of tread.

Violations of traction laws can cost a driver more than $130. This fine increases to $650 or more if the driver blocks the road, a common occurrence during wintertime due to accidents. 

There were 653 crashes on I-70 between the eastern Denver County line (milepost 282.5) and the Main Street Frisco exit (milepost 201) from September 2018 through May 2019, according to data provided to the Summit Daily News by the Colorado Department of Public Safety Crime Analysis Unit.

The Colorado Department of Transportation reported that of the 516 total crashes in Summit County in 2018, 32 occurred in snow, sleet or hail. 

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