Westy Snow stories

Capt. Mike

When I still had the '79 Type II Westy, we were homebound out of Alaska & NW Canada in early September. We camped in the Jasper NP (northern Canadian Rockies) with the plan of driving through the park on h'way 93 and spending the next night in Banff.

When we broke camp, the first big flurries started down. As we started up the Rockies, it got a little worse until we reached a point where the Rangers had diverted everybody into a big overlook parking area. They told everybody this was just for a few minutes, they were sanding a couple of patches on the hills that had some ice on them.

OK, I'm a trusting soul. But not that trusting. When they released the pack, we held off for 15 more minutes. I didn't want to be in the middle of a bunch of folks, some with California plates trying to do their 7 states & Canada in 5 days! Glad I did.

As we climbed, the temperatures dropped and snow started coming down again -- heavy. The Admiral is over there chanting the thermometer readings -- in the '79 I had VDO's outside temperature gauge mounted on her side. At 27°F/-3°C, I told her I got the picture! I was now watching the ice build up on the mirrors and windshield. Naturally, this was the stretch with no more overlooks.

But I have to admit, the Rangers had done a beautiful job of sanding the UP-hill stretches where there was ice. Now if we could only teach them the relationship between DOWNHILL, ICE & BRAKES! No ABS on an old Westy. I've now got indents from my fingers in the steering wheel and I won't tell you what's gripping the seat. I always wanted a button hole there anyway. My only saving grace is the pick-up truck behind me is smart enough to hold a good 500 foot spacing.

We finally reach a pull-off and I stop to resume breathing and other necessities. I needed a stiff belt, but settled for coffee. What was kind of funny is that pickup pulled in behind us. I have an additional, extra bright fog tail-light on the left side, which I'd had on. He said, "You know you've got a brake light out on the right side!" Apparently he thought my fog tail-light was me riding the brakes all the way down. The ice & snow build-up was so bad the regular brake lights were covered up.

The weather had cleared some but they were prediciting another worse snow that night, so we passed on camping in Banff and went on down to a commercial campground in Calgary. Good thing. We still had to set up in 8" of snow -- used the cutting board as a snow shovel. Next morning our portable gray water tank was frozen solid. Fortunately, being a commercial campground, it had AC and we had a hair dryer.

Every time I look at pictures of that trip, I catch my breath. The snow & ice had filled the wheel wells and hung off the mudflaps in huge blocks leaving just a tire-sized opening. The mirrors & camper side fittings had layers of ice on them. And the hubcaps had beautiful little spokes of ice where apparently the axle & brake temps were warm enough to melt it at the center, but it refroze as centrifugal force slung it outwards.

What I wouldn't have given for my Synchro & some studded M&S's then!
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Capt. Mike

A few days later -- September 8th -- in that same trip, we were camped on the west side of Glacier NP in Montana. We had crossed from the East in light flurries the day before, but next morning the Rangers closed the Rising Sun Highway. After we broke camp, we still went back in as we figured there would be some really nice shots of Lake MacDonald with the snow. Then we'd turn back and skirt south.

As we were stopped at the gatehouse, the Ranger was telling us where the road was closed. Then the phone rang, "Just a minute, it might be new road information." It was. The road is open all the way across. So off we went.

One day I'll learn not to trust a Ranger's weather predictions! As we neared the top, the snow got worse & worse. It was the Admiral's 40th birthday and I suggested she pose for a picture at the overlook at the Continental Divide. She stepped back and sunk to her knees in the snow -- well over her boots. Such language! Apparently boots full of snow aren't a woman's idea of a great birthday present.

We made it down, but they had reclosed the road. Next morning we picked up a local paper -- "Three foot blizzard strikes Glacier!"

Pass the grits & crank up the heat, Dear, we're going home.
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Ruth Neslund

New member
The snow capabilities of the vw van are remarkable. My first vw van, a 1969 non-westy transporter, turned sideways at 30 mph on snowcovered asphalt and then promptly straightened out and continued happily down the road. We liked to take this van snow-camping because as long as you kept the gas on, it would scurry over 12" of snow, the front bumper a virtual snow-plow. During one miserable snow camping trip, we were in three separate pup tents, the van parked off the road approximately 1/4 mile from the campsite. It had been pouring down rain and around midnight, I decided to go sleep in the van. Once in the van, I quickly dropped off to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, I awoke to see an old woman walking past the van. The next morning there were no footprints in the snow. I know the rain could have melted any trace of footprints but I have always wondered if it was a dream, an actual person or something more of the netherworld variety.

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate similar topics.

Posted June 19, 2000 05:12 PM

:rolleyes: Here in NC, we had the worst snow storm in our recorded history this winter. Officially 20.3" at the fed weather station and 22" at the TV station. Whatever, far more than this area is equipped or prepared for. And what a Redneck in a pickup truck will do boggles the mind.

But we Westy owners have our moments! Two days after, I was taking Volksrat to the post office to mail some articles that had a publication deadline. Around here, the Post Office doesn't deliver too good during good weather and shuts down in anything heavier than a cool dew. Volksrat is a '90 Syncro with its 4WD, locking differential and granny 1st & reverse gears. Mine also 'happens' to have a set of Michelin's studded M&S tires. Around here ice is more a problem than snow anyway.

I was following a couple cars on one of our typical unplowed State Roads -- the only thing that gets plowed by the State is the Governor's driveway -- when the big Ford F-250 4WD pickup at the head of the line got out of the ruts and slid into the ditch. When the rest passed on by, I stopped to make sure he was OK, then asked if he wanted me to try to tow him out.

He had a trailer hitch, so I just put Volksrat kind of crosswise to the road with a couple of tires on dry pavement patches. Hooked the tow rope to his hitch and my front hook. Granny gear reverse, locked rear differential. He came out on the 2nd pull!

By then, there was a line of cars watching. Several appeared to be chuckling and one said, after the other fellow had driven off, "That must have been embarrasing. A big F250 4WD truck and had to be pulled out by a Volkswagen." Made my day. I doubt the people in line noticed the little 4WD emblem on the door and surely didn't know or notice the Synchro's goodies or the studded tires. And I sure wasn't going to tell them!

Had to share that -- we Westy owners don't get to flex the muscles too often.

Capt. Mike
Tech Writer

Dec. 2002: In November 2002, my wife had a small lump in her neck. She had it removed and the flash biopsy during surgury indicated it was malignant. I'm proud to say our hospital started a cancer regimen so fast my head was spinning. I brought her home on Saturday. Monday, the oncologist scheduled a bone marrow biopsy on Tuesday, Catscan Wednesday & Petscan on Thursday.

Unfortunately, the weather grinch decided that was time for one of NC's few winter storms. While at the Tuesday bone marrow biopsy, it starterd freezing rain and sleet. By the time she got home, roads were getting really bad and ice was accumulating on trees & power lines.

Wednesday morning, we were without power, my 1100' drive was blocked with fallen trees and the roads were blocked with both fallen trees and downed power lines & poles. With the help of neighbors and friends we cut our way out 3 times. Every time we got it clear enough for the Westy, more would come tumbling down. But we made it. By the time we had to leave for her appointment -- about 15 miles away -- there was a single-car wide path through the destruction to the main roads.

I put the studded mud & snows on our trusty Syncro Westy and off we headed. We had much anxst but no problems. The studded tires and the Westy's 4WD did admirably. When we got to the hospital they did the Catscan while still under the hospital's emergency power. We came home, still snaking through downed power lines and up hills covered with glaze ice while seeing cars in the ditches everywhere.

Thursday brought NO attempts to clear the roads in our area. At that time, the nearest Petscan machine was at UNC in Chapel Hill, 25 miles each way. The first half by more back roads. By then, the 2nd half was on the 1½ lanes open on I-40 open but still iced badly. Again the Syncro performed admirably.

It was a week before we got power back and probably another before all lanes were cleared. The "Ice Storm" of '02 is now one of our uban legands that grows each year. But it was very real to some very scared Westy owners. Thankfully, the Westy's ability to get the prompt diagnosis enable a very quick program to battle the cancer. As I'm sure you're well aware, time if of the essence with that disease or it can hit the lymph system and spread like wildfire. That set of junk-yard rims and studded M&S's paid for itself a thousand times over that week.

Stralen Davitch (Postal8888@aol.com)2/6/00 (1:06 AM)

Well, I guess that I'm just gonna have to second capt. Mikes little discourse on the ability of Veedub Type2's (and of course the venerated Vanabox Syncro) to do some pretty damn amazing things when the weather gets tricky.

I, too, live in NC (Raleigh, to be exact) and spent the better part of four days ferrying medical personel back and fourth to one of our local hospitals during our "Snow Event from Hell". This was not a real big issue for me, having grown up in a little town in the mountains of CO,(and having driven a Type 2 for the last 20 some-odd years) but to the good folks of my adopted state, the sight of a 1978 Westy plowing through 20+ inches of snow, ice, muck, curbs(hey, it was burried under all that snow!), etc., was a bit of a shock. The Type 2 is probably one of the most capable two wheel drive vehicles there is when it comes to snow. With the right tyres (mine are 27X8.5X14 A/T's), and a bit of forethought, getting stuck is rather hard to do. (If it gets really bad, chain up.) And as for pulling all those wankers out of the ditch, well, I didn't have the chance to try my luck with the Rednecks, but did use my snatch-n-grab strap to "remove" a brand new SUV or two (not to mention their respective humiliated yuppie occupants/drivers)from some rather interesting situations!

Oh, and one last aside, when correctly insulated and in the condition the factory intended it, the type 2 will provide you with more than enough heat to keep even the most "frosty" RN warm!

Stray Davitch
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New member
How I learned how to survive in the snow this year in my Westfalia: I've been restoring a carriage house built around 1900 or so. When I finish fixing up the pulley style doors, I can park my van in it for winters. Its my own little cabin without plumbing or utilities, electric is availiable but I choose to avoid using it. Well, I sure wish I had a picture for you Captain Mike, but I used the Westy to pick up a big old wood stove and install it. The entire stove, all the piping and chimney flue, and a week's worth of wood fit right inside the cargo hold inside the van. I drove it sixty miles and took it out of the van in the worst of the snow early this year. I fixed the holes in it with old cookie sheets. Now I spend lots of time driving around finding wood. I spent the entire winter living in the cabin. During the biggest blizzard, I was cruising the streets making the path for the trucks. I was watching police cars being towed and mail trucks flip over into snow banks and the police ignoring the poor stranded postal workers during the chaos. I knew the blizzard was bad when I pulled into the driveway of the vw guy who taught me how to drive mine to clean my windsheild- and his snowplow was sitting right there..even John wouldn't plow in this. So I learned how to survive in the snow- one key realization was to get into the van every few hours, and keep the overall temp of the van always a shade higher than the exterior temp by running it for a bit. Also helps to melt the snow around you. I like to put pizza boxes under my wheels when I know there is a storm coming, and stack milk crates around the wheels to prevent build up and thick ice from forming.Now I'm learning how to survive in the rain...any tips on keeping wood stash dry without using up all the interior space? Pictures of my cabin and woodstove can be viewed at adrianemedia profile cabin pics


New member
Just had to say, I pulled the neighboring farm's John Deer tractor out of the mud with my tiico Synchro. Surprised both of us. He hasn't gotten over it yet.


New member
Winter Westy

A big thank you to my Westy (Winnie) . Through all the snow when even trucks were stuck. Front wheel drive and good studded tires never let us down. We don't get that much snow in BC. Canada but when it comes again I know we'll be King of he Road again.


New member
Anyone have any bad/unwanted things happen at the convention this year ? This could be anything from a costume not working for you or being creeped on by someone, like in my case.

One of my only stories is some guy at the rave on Saturday night asking for my name/where I was staying and telling me his room number. I was definitely creeped ou


New member
Simply needed to state, i pulled the neighboring homestead's john deer tractor out of the mud with my tiico Synchro, astounded the two of us...