A review of Cooper Discoverer STT PROtm Tires
By: Rick Harrmann, Tour Guide for Colorado Jeep Tours
Known as the “Climate Capital of Colorado”, Cañon City is in the heart of weather phenomenon called a banana belt. The towering, expansive and beautiful Sangre De Cristo mountain range to the west combines with the lower elevation and rushing white waters of the Arkansas River to form a natural micro-climate that offers more favorable weather conditions here than in other parts of Colorado. This is particularly true for weather coming from the west and southwest, which is where most of our weather comes from. It is very common that when neighboring Colorado Springs, a short 45-minute drive away, is under the huge clouds of thunderstorms, Cañon City has blue skies and mild conditions.
The banana belt that helps keep Cañon City warmer and dryer, also helps keep our trails dry and rugged for the most part, and allows us to offer jeep tours all year round, even during colder seasons.
The last two articles I wrote about Discoverer STT PROtm tires were written with those conditions in mind. Dry, rugged and rocky terrain can cause for quick tread-wear on tires, especially if they don’t have the ability to latch onto jagged or smooth rocks when climbing or descending; what I refer to as grip strength. And under those conditions Cooper Tires Discoverer STT PROstm do extremely well. They perform far better than other tires we’ve used: their grip is fantastic and they last a lot longer.
But Cañon City isn’t always warm and sunny. On average, we only receive about 13.5” of total moisture per year, but some of that comes to us in the form of snow; sometimes light, sometimes heavy. So in this article, I examine how Discoverer STT PROs perform in slippery, unpredictable winter conditions.
The occasional winter
Snow on Cañon City roads and trails can provide several conditions that our tour drivers need to be able to handle. With very little winter driving in our part of Colorado, it can be significantly different than summer driving. Daytime temperatures tend to stay above freezing resulting in snowmelt and softer ground conditions, particularly at lower elevations, while nighttime temperatures tend to refreeze everything. Also, north-facing trails will stay snowier and icier a lot longer than south-facing trails.
Because of this variability, a tour driver can expect – and must be prepared for – several different types of driving conditions on a single tour, and they need the confidence that the tires on their jeeps are up to the challenge.
Trails can be dry. They can be snowy (heavy or light) with underlying hard surfaces for good traction or underlying soft conditions or mud for very slippery and poor driving conditions. They can be sloppy in spots and immediately turn icy in the shadows. And being on narrow, single-lane trails or roads, one wrong move can increase the risk of sliding over an edge or into a natural drainage ravine, unable to get out. Since drivers can not truly know the conditions of the roads until they get out there, they need confidence that the tires on their jeeps will give them the control they need to push through safely. As I mentioned in my previous review:
“Trails are just too remote and there is no way for a driver to know their condition until he or she is out there. As you can imagine, this uncertainty can affect a guide’s ability to provide a confident tour.”
If the tires don’t cut it, drivers won’t drive them.
So how do Discoverer STT PROtm tires tackle snowy unpredictability for Colorado Jeep Tours? Quite well, actually!
While considering all of our tour routes for this article, several locations come to mind as particularly challenging for our drivers. For this article, I focus on one section of road that’s not typically a driving challenge… until it snows and shows its true colors.
Temple Canyon Road is a summertime favorite. It’s a seldom-maintained county gravel road southwest of Cañon City, that winds through the mountain, increasing in elevation until it descends down into Temple Canyon, on the way to Temple Canyon Park.
Being susceptible to washout during the late summer monsoon season, the condition of the road can vary greatly from day to day, becoming rather unpredictable. And since it narrows in some areas to a single lane road, and has both north and south-facing sections, drivers typically leave the good driving conditions of Cañon City behind them and experience almost all of the winter driving challenges on this one road: mud, ice, deep snow, and hard, icy or even soft and sloppy ruts.
Managing unpredictable conditions with Discoverer STT PROtm
One section of Temple Canyon road in particular causes drivers to use a little caution. It’s a deceptive location that appears relatively flat, but it slopes slightly toward a rocky wall on the driver’s side – away from the steep edge, thankfully! – with a deep, natural watershed ravine between the road and the wall. Drop into the ravine and you’re stuck and need to call for help. This section of road tends to be very rutted and slippery in snowy conditions and can cause the jeep to slide sideways toward the drainage ravine. Drivers learn to manage these conditions using proper speed and approach, and learn to use the ruts to their advantage. The most beneficial tool the driver has, however, is a good tire. If you don’t have a good tire, you don’t have control.
I’ve had the pleasure of driving this road on several winter tours, in different jeeps and with different tires. I’ve experienced poor traction with lots of sliding and decent traction with little sliding. The largest contributor to navigating this section successfully, as well as other locations in these conditions, always seems to be the tires. As a tour guide, I have found that good tire performance puts more control of these unpredictable conditions into my hands as the driver, helping me maintain forward momentum, keep the tour on track and provide a pleasurable experience for my guests. In my experience, Discoverer STT PROtm tires are by far the most effective tire for these conditions. Other tires we’ve used just do not match up.
It’s all about tour performance and happy guests
While safety for our guests and drivers is always paramount for Colorado Jeep Tours, the true benefit of using these tires is the amount of confidence they provide our drivers. Having well-equipped jeeps is one thing, but a tour won’t be successful if drivers are not confident in their tools of the trade. If drivers are focusing too much time and effort on road and condition control, they won’t be providing the true experience of a jeep tour.
Colorado Jeep Tours are full of stories of history, geology and paleontology that accompany a great off-road experience. A good driver will certainly adapt his or her tour to the conditions, but there needs to be a balance and it needs to be a relaxing tour for their guests. Cooper Discoverer STT PROs, more than any other tire, allow our drivers to conduct their tours in the most confident and relaxing manner possible.