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Mechanic Wayne Schneider points out settings on a computerized spreader control during a course he helped develop at the 2010 Snow School in Alliston, Ontario. Photo: Wellington County, Ontario

The mechanics' training concentrates on new winter maintenance materials and techniques, problems related to using liquids, computerized controllers, preventive maintenance, hydraulics, and troubleshooting, plus hands-on equipment demonstrations. Ontario Good Roads Association staff administers the courses, which are geared to both experienced and new mechanics. Johnson delivers three of the sections himself, while the other five are conducted by one of his mechanics and one of his county operators.

As of 2012, Johnson estimates around 120 mechanics and 3,000 operators from across Canada have been trained. He advises municipalities interested in starting their own snow school programs to tap into associations and local resources. “Because so much information is available, the cost [of starting a program] is negligible — but the benefits are exponential.”

The Snow School program costs association members $310 for the one-day mechanics' course and $1,500 for the full three-day course (including housing and meals). Nonmembers pay $400 for one day; $1,900 for three days. The three-day course takes place in Alliston, Ontario. The Snow School Mechanics Module takes place in Guelph. Plus, four courses are delivered by request at client locations. For more information, see “Education” at www.ogra.org.

WINTER BASICS FOR DRIVERS

Training benefits both rookies and veterans

For those who can't make it to Ontario, tire manufacturer Bridgestone offers Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colo. (Special events and other training programs are available by appointment year-round throughout North America.) The school has been operating for 29 years and is cosponsored by Toyota, which supplies vehicles for the program.

More than 76,000 participants have completed the Winter Driving School training, which operates seven days a week from mid-December through early March. The school includes six classes:

  • First Gear: An abbreviated four-hour winter driving skills class offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  • Second Gear: A full-day class offered seven days a week, covering how to handle vehicles in slippery and low-grip situations.
  • Third Gear: Teaches how to control vehicles in low-grip conditions, with entry-level tips used by rally race car drivers.
  • Fourth Gear (prerequisite: Third Gear): Students learn advanced techniques used by rally race car drivers.
  • Fifth Gear: A two-day school that teaches advanced skills of rally drivers: how to balance and control front-, rear-, and all-wheel-drive vehicles.
  • Sixth Gear: A winter driving class for groups and companies. Elements such as team-building, conflict management, and team leadership training can be added.

Private Instruction is also available for those who want to learn one-on-one. To learn more, visit here.