WCRA website promoting Stage and TSD Rally Sport in British Columbia
Page Updated: Monday, July 14, 2003
How To Stay Alive On A Winter Rally
Do What You're Told, Or Die In The Cold!

A Compendium Of Advice Gleaned From Sourdoughs
And Sourdettes
And Other Idjits
Dumb Enough To Live Above The 60th Parallel 
CLOTHING: When it's cold out it's always a good idea to dress warm. No doubt your dear mother told you that, but it's true anyway. Dress warm, or you'll freeze your sorry ass off in the winter. However, there's a method to dressing warm that you must know about. 
  • Dress in layers. In other words, you should dress in layers from the inside out. Three layers is a good rule to follow. The first layer should be of something like your long underwear, known to some as a "union suit," in case you are lost already. The second layer should be some nice loose-fitting pants and shirt, and your third should be a good pair of ski pants and parka. Actually, very simple. No? Note: Official Alaska Rally Team union suits must come equipped with flaps, two button only. These flaps are for-well, if you don't know, you are too young to run this rally. Read your general instructions, or call Satch Carlson. 
  • Head gear is very important, and we do NOT mean hash pipes and beads. Say, for example, that you've fallen off the road in a big way, and it becomes necessary for you to be outside in the wind and cold for an extended period of time. . . like more than 30 seconds, maybe. Anyway, if you should happen to be outside for any time at all, remember to have on a good hat to put on your head. Head. Remember that. OK, anyway, it's a little known fact that you will lose more heat out the top of your head faster than anyplace else. Don't worry about why, and all that, just remember to put on your hat! Another choice, a good full-face ski mask, ain't a bad idea. 
  • Hands must be kept warm. You can screw up your hands quicker than anything if you're not paying attention. First, always keep your gloves handy. If you have to change a tire, or open the hood or something, always put your gloves on first! If it's cold enough outside, and you grab onto a metal object (rally car, for example), chances are good that you'll stick to the damn thing, just the way you did when you licked that flagpole at age ten. You'll look pretty stupid running down the road during a regularity, holding onto the door handle (which your hand is stuck to) because you forgot to put on your damn gloves! Hope Isuzu gets a picture of it !  Mittens are much warmer than gloves, but if you've got to work on the rally car, then you need gloves. If you're just out there trying to stay warm,  mittens are the answer. Bring both on the rally. 
  • Feet must be taken care of. Keep your feet warm and dry. If you should happen to get your feet wet, dry them off, change your socks and shoes, boots, or whatever. Don't wait for your feet to go numb. Take care of your feet as soon as possible. It's not necessary to wear two or three pairs of socks. A single good pair of ski socks will do just fine, as long as your foot gear fits properly and you keep it dry. 
  • Some last words on clothing: Make sure what you have fits loosely. Tight duds may look good in the ski lodge, but you'll freeze your buns off in real winter weather. This ain't no fashion show! What happens is that loose-fitting clothing allows a layer of warm, insulating air between the layers of clothing, thus keeping you warm(er). Clever, no? Anyway, that's the way it works. Trust us. Also, make sure that what you've got is clean and in a good state of repair. Clean things are warmer than dirty things. Finally, inspect all your garments for tears and rips. Fix or replace. Simple enough. 
  • And more generalities: Stuff filled with feathers is warmer than other stuff. Stuff made of wool is warmer than most other stuff. Polar fleece and its generic equivalents are very good, but most such synthetics have a reputation for odor absoprption - if that's a concern try the new Capeline. Finally, weigh the fact that natural fibers like wool are much more fire retardent than synthetics. 
FOOD & DRINK: When it's cold, really cold, like way below zero, it's important to remember to drink lots of liquids. We're talking good old water here. Why? Because, in Alaska and the Yukon, when it's cold, it's a dry cold. Inside your car, what moisture there is will condense and freeze on the windows. In short, believe it or not, you'll begin to dry out.  Anyway, drink lots of water or juice and you'll feel better (but remember coffee is a diuretic!). If you wear contact lenses, make sure you bring along your regular eye wear; contacts don't work all that well in the north country in the winter. If you should happen to find yourself in a situation where you've had lots of exertion or your rally car has "passed on", then it's important to remember to take on as much water as possible. You may not feel thirsty, but in the dry air of the frozen north, you're drying out as fast as you would in Hawaii. Strange, maybe, but true.  Bring along plenty of food and water. Junk food is great for rallying; we call it "Road Food". Fats in the morning, carbohydrates the night before. Official US of A Army C-rations are  great for staying alive in a pinch. When you ain't in a pinch, eat as you normally would. Just don't skip meals. Carry more than you think you ought to, or you'll find yourself in the middle of the Yukon Territory coming to Serious Negotiations over who gets the last Bit-O'-Honey. 

EQUIPMENT: By this time you will have already set up your car as you see fit; some people favor block heaters, headbolt heaters, battery blankets, and such, which work well--if you have a place to plug them in. Get a circuit tester also since many vehicles with such a gadget collection start tripping 110 circuits, making bad AM neighbors. Another plan is to carry your battery into the hotel with you at night. Thin oil is a must; like 5-W-30.  It's also available in synthetics which seem to stay skinny at about a million below. Naturally we favor Red Line. Perhaps any mention of antifreeze would seem a little redundant---but remember that pure antifreeze turns into a gelid glop at very cold temperatures; ask Gene Henderson!  A fifty-fifty mixture should be fine. Photographers: cameras are known to freeze up in extremely low temperatures. If your gear  requires  batteries, carry spares in your inside pockets.  In blowing snow, amber fog lights work well. Fog lights ain't worth diddly in any other situations, including fog.  Remember pencils - a pen will quickly freeze up and be useless while you're outside writing down times for the ice races. 

TIRES: The debate over hydrophilic compounds versus studs goes on and on and on. The Alaska Rally Team is unanimous in recommending studs. Ask Susie Fouse about the brand-new red 944 she wiped out on glare ice with hydrophilic tires, all because John was so smart. (However it's worth noting that an Olds Bravada without studs kicked everyone's butt on the last ice race in 1996, so these are improving!).  Other than that the cardinal rule for tires is that skinnier is better, about 2 sizes narrower than standard (replace a 205/60 or 215/60 with a 195/65, and a 30x10.5 truck tire with no wider than a 235/75, for example).  It's no mistake that a Group 4 RS2000 Escort or 911RS Porsche used to run a 165 section width tire for the Monte Carlo Rally and a 205 or larger for the RAC. 

IN AN EMERGENCY: Don't panic. No, really: DON'T PANIC! IT'LL BE ALL RIGHT! THEY'LL FIND US WHEN THE GLACIERS MELT! Remember, you're on the main road. Hell, you're on the only road! With little exception, you can feel reassured that somebody will be along quite soon. Of course, this somebody is likely to be another rallyist, so we have a bit of the blind leading the blind here. 

  • The first rule is to stay with your car. This is because everything is farther away than you think it is. And it's colder than you think. And your brain doesn't work when it's cold. (Of course if your brain worked in the first place you wouldn't be out here swearing at Jerry Hines). 
  • The second rule is think first. We know the immediate reaction to hitting a snowbank is to throw open the doors and run around the car in your shirtsleves, but now both you and the inside of your car are cold and full of snow, and there is probably some other nut about to find the same bad corner. Even if it takes a checklist, try the following: don warm jacket/ hat/gloves, grab flare(s), get out (closing door), place flare, and survey the situation.  If you're stuck give it your best try the first time and if it looks like you're just making things worse hook up a tow strap and get back in the car to radio for help. It's a also a good idea during the transits to pair up with other rally cars; besides, the miles just seem to fly by faster when you're jawing away on the radio. 
  • Another cardinal rule of the North is that you never pass by a stopped car without stopping to ask if you can help. Chances are somebody has merely stopped to take pictures or wrestle frigid fingers through several layers of clothing in order to find that pesky little thingie that's shriveled up to nothing. (And if you want to know why women really hate us, watch one of them wrestling her way through even more layers while nestling in a snowbank behind the bushes, especially when there ain't no bushes. Oh, yeah. Woe to the fool who lets even the slightest hint of a smirk crawl across his features.) 
And finally, HAVE A GOOD TIME. Why else would anybody go through all this nonsense? 
Checklist for Equipment 
Over the years, travellers across the Alaska Highway have equipped themselves in varying fashion. Gone are the days when you needed four spare tires stacked on top of the station wagon, but things can still go wrong when you are in the middle of nowhere, or just half a mile off center. Past rallyists have found the following items comforting, and of course some of them are essential. 
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