Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Winter Driving FAQs

There are unique rules for both passenger and commercial vehicles. For more information on the Chain Law for commercial vehicles, visit

The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) will enforce the Traction and Chain Laws as secondary offenses. This means CSP can only cite motorists if they crash and/or cause traffic delays and are not compliant with the laws.

Yes, CDOT can implement the Traction and Chain Laws on all state highways.

It’s not recommended to use winter tires year-round. Rubber compounds in winter tires make the tire soft, which is designed for cold, winter conditions. Harder rubber compounds used in all-weather and all-season tires are better for warmer weather. Using winter tires during other seasons will wear your tires out faster, and will compromise your traction and handling on dry roads.

Motorists should remove their winter tires at the end of winter, or when the weather begins to get consistently warm. Beware, Colorado tends to get its largest snowfall totals in March.

Yes — applying only two winter tires diminishes the tires’ effectiveness. Putting winter tires on just the rear wheels eliminates steering response at the front. Having only two front winter tires puts the vehicle at risk of “fishtailing” and having the back end of the car spinout.

Yes — cold temperatures and winter weather conditions occur statewide. Winter tires, all-weather tires, and mud and snow tires are the safe options for driving in winter weather.

All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are not the same, but under the Traction Law, both are compliant as long as all the tires have a minimum 3/16” tread depth. While all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive may help you accelerate on slick or snowy terrain, when it comes to stopping or turning, nothing is more important than your tires. In winter conditions, winter, all-weather and mud and snow (M+S) tires stop much more quickly than regular all-season tires.

There are two main kinds of four-wheel drive — part-time and full-time. With part-time four-wheel drive, most vehicles are rear-wheel drive until the driver manually puts the vehicle in four-wheel drive. With full-time four-wheel drive, all four wheels are always engaged.

With all-wheel drive, sensors automatically determine which wheels should get power to maximize traction. During normal conditions, most all-wheel drive vehicles use just the front wheels.

CDOT is responsible for plowing state highways and interstates, which adds up to about 23,000 lane miles across Colorado. Individual municipalities are responsible for plowing their own local roads.

On highways with annual average daily traffic of 1,000 vehicles or more, snow removal operations will occur throughout the storm (24 hours) until normal driving conditions exist. On highways with daily traffic less than 1,000 vehicles, snow removal will occur from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., with exceptions for school bus routes, highway segments with high accident rates, or hospital/emergency routes.

CDOT is looking to hire qualified snowplow drivers. If you have your commercial driver's license (CDL), apply here

Visit the Winter Driving Preparedness page for tips for driving during winter weather. 

After the layer of liquid de-icer is applied, snowplows are operated around-the-clock on the state’s most heavily traveled roadways applying both liquid and solid de-icing products until their services are no longer needed. On roadways with fewer vehicles, snow removal hours may be limited.

  • On highways with annual average daily traffic of 1,000 or greater, snow removal operations will occur throughout the storm (24 hours) until normal driving conditions exist.

  • On highways with annual average daily traffic less than 1,000, snow removal operations will be limited to 14-hours, from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. (exceptions may be granted for school bus routes, highway segments with high accident rates or hospital/emergency routes)   While roads with fewer vehicles may have limited hours of snow removal during a typical snow event, CDOT will plow the roadway if the storm is such that it may cause the road to become closed and impassable. CDOT will also work with emergency service providers when emergency response is necessary.

List of Highways with Limited Plow Hours

  • Liquid and solid deicers will be used on Interstates, freeways, and divided highways and in all air quality non-attainment areas as needed. (exceptions may be granted on other highways that have high accident rates, are emergency routes, etc.)
  • During a storm, liquid and solid deicers will be used only on highways with annual average daily traffic greater than 15,000
  • Liquid and solid deicers may be used on any highway following a storm for deicing if necessary
  • Sand may be used on all state highways

When weather forecasts indicate the dispatch of snowplows will be necessary, CDOT mobilizes plows at the start of the storm and may put down a layer of liquid de-icer once snow starts to fall to help prevent the precipitation from freezing to the roadway surface.

For each individual storm, CDOT begins preparing as soon as winter weather appears in the forecast. However, CDOT plans ahead to remain ready for snowy conditions year-round. For more information on what happens when the forecast calls for snow, visit our Snow Removal page.

CDOT regularly monitors the local weather forecast to determine the severity of winter weather. This allows the winter operations team time to plan for the type and quantity of equipment and crew members needed.

Taxpayer dollars are spent on:

  • Snowplows 
  • Maintenance equipment 
  • Snow removal products 
  • Employee wages

The major factors that increase the risk of an avalanche are large quantities of new snow, high winds and drastic changes in temperatures.

Since it is impossible to predict how much snow will be brought down during a control mission, CDOT cannot estimate how long a highway closure will be in place. CDOT will open the highway as soon as it is safe for the traveling public.

If you encounter an avalanche while in your vehicle, there are several precautions you can take to help keep you safe:

  • Stay in your vehicle and keep the windows rolled up
  • Turn off your vehicle to prevent carbon monoxide filling the car
  • Call for help on a cell phone
  • Plan ahead during the winter season and keep additional food, water, warm clothes and blankets in your vehicle