Nothing like a 2 day trip to Steamboat with Toyota (including a drive up from Denver in the 2020 Prius which did great in the snow!) for the Bridgestone Winter Driving School Experience!

First things first – Winter is NO joke up in Steamboat Springs. It was a balmy -18 around 7am on the day of our drive. Bundle up when you go. Steamboat is a casual town so your snow or duckboots go well with anything. 

The Bridgestone Winter Driving School is the real deal – no skid cars that randomly lose traction, no instructor pulling on a handbrake to simulate skids in a parking lot. Patterned after the great ice driving schools of Europe, this school is the only one of its kind in North America. Founded in 1983, more than 83,000 participants have graduated from their programs.

Of course,Toyota is the official supplier of vehicles for the Bridgestone Winter Driving School – we drove Camry’s, Four Runners and we even test drove the new 2020 Highlander. Exciting news – a Hybrid Highlander is coming out too!

Of course the cars were tricked out with Bridgestone Blizzak tires for the optimal combination of safety and performance techniques. Speaking of Blizzak, we learned a lot about tire care & how to take control of your driving experience by making sure your tires are in good shape, check the tire pressure & tread wear, having your tires balanced & more.

Ya’all – they mean business with these classes!  Law enforcement officers from more than 20 states have attended, as have groups from the Secret Service and the FBI.

We had the full day class called Second Gear which included classroom instruction time at their main office. We learned a ton about braking, acceleration, weight transfer, cornering, and accident avoidance techniques which we then applied in real time when we got to the track which is a short drive up the mountain.

Worried about being cold? They have a cozy yurt right on track where we had lunch & also more classroom time in between track sessions.

I was a little nervous at first but the instructors were right there with us by radio and all of us drivers were kept very informed with constant updates & feedback on how we were doing, giving us pointers & encouragement. I thought I knew a lot about winter driving since I grew up in the Midwest, notorious for brutal winter driving conditions, but this class learned me something good & also had great refresher info.

Who is best suited for Bridgestone Winter Driving School? everyone of every age with a valid drivers license or permit. Real talk: EVERY driver out there could use this information, whatever the weather. I’d highly recommend it for new drivers.
Oh and hey and check with your insurance agent once you take the class, you may quality for an insurance discount. 

When in Steamboat Springs

You will definitely want to leave time to check out everything Steamboat Springs has to offer.
Truffle Pig Steamboat – We had a lovely dinner (dang their food is SO good) that included hand-crafted cocktails just for our group – all named for our upcoming driving experience.
4 Points Lodge  – It’s a fun commute to get to this restaurant: Take a walk to the gondola halfway up the mountain & then a snowcat up to the top for fine dining at 9K+ feet. We went at night which was absolutely amazing – I can’t imagine the views during the day. 😀  That snowcat is so dang cozy & cute, I almost fell asleep on the way back down.

The Steamboat Grand  – A beautiful hotel that is sooo centrally located in the middle of everything. The Driving School is a quick walk & the Truffle Pig, as well as the Gondola, are right around the corner. 

2020 Toyota Prius XLE AWD-e Hybrid

  • 50 MPG (52 city / 48 highway)
  • $32,200 MSRP with upgrades

We definitely gave it the test run by taking the car up to 6700 feet on steep mountain roads. We also tested it out in the city during bad weather – the car did great in slippery/slushy conditions and made it through some of the deeper snow conditions, despite it’s low profile. The Prius got a big refresh for 2019, so it slides into the 2020 model year without any major updates – here are my observations:

  • Tons of room in the back in the cargo trunk
  • The kids fit comfortably in the backseat
  • Qi charging pad is always handy
  • The dash controls were located on top of the dashboard and center between the front seats which too a few hot minutes to get used to but it was night to have everything visible to the driver AND the passenger
  • Upgrade All weather floor & cargo liners have a nice design & are GREAT for bad weather
  • Upgrade Advanced Technology Package reasonably priced at $800 & includes heads-up display, hybrid system indicator, Adaptive Front Lighting.
  • 7-inch touchscreen — an upgrade over 2019’s 6.1-inch screen — which now features Apple CarPlay, in addition to things like Bluetooth, a CD player, Wi-Fi hotspot and aux and USB inputs.

A few downsides:

  • The front console area is roomy but there is an odd gap behind the Qi pad area that wasn’t very convenient – if something feel in the gap, it would probably get stuck
  • Hatchback rear view feels very narrow and the bottom edge of the rear window was right in my line of sight. 
  • Android Auto is not compatible with this system.
  • Our model did not have a ton of upgrades 

Zombie Apocalypse Rating 

Anything Hybrid gets a standard solid B rating. The Prius would be a great “in compound” or quick runs nearby. You wouldn’t want to take this out on long runs even with it being a hybrid.

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