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Heading to the Cottonwood canyons? Get a free sticker and skip the snow-tire inspection line.

KPCW
Winter driving is easier with snow tires, officials said. A pre-inspection program allows drivers with the proper equipment to bypass UDOT inspection sites, like those at the Cottonwood canyons.

Skiers and boarders heading up into the Cottonwood canyons might be asked to stop and prove their vehicles can handle winter conditions — if we ever get some snow, that is. The Utah Department of Transportation has a program to bypass the stoppage, and there’s still time to sign up.

When the flakes are flying and UDOT puts its traction law into effect, the agency requires vehicles travelling in the Cottonwood canyons to be equipped with snow tires or other traction devices.

That can mean stopping at a checkpoint for a police officer to visually inspect tires, adding precious minutes to a powder-day commute.

UDOT Region Two communication manager Courtney Samuel said the agency is stepping up enforcement this year.

“If you're talking about the Cottonwood canyons, or if it snows more in like a Park City, or other higher elevation areas, yes, then snow tires are going to be a good practice to get,” Samuel said.

UDOT established a program two winters ago that allows vehicles to bypass the checkpoint if they’ve been pre-inspected. If a vehicle meets the snow-tire requirements, an inspection site can issue a sticker that allows it to skip the line.

The requirements are this: For all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicles, UDOT requires tires to have one of two designations on their sidewalls: an M plus S (M+S), which designates mud or snow, or a snowflake with three points. There are also minimum tread requirements, so bald tires don’t count.

For two-wheel drive vehicles, only tires with three-peak snowflakes on their sidewalls can qualify for the sticker. The designation is referred to as a three-peak mountain snowflake, or 3PMSF. It is awarded to tires that pass snow-tire performance tests.

“They have the type of depth in tread on them, that allows it to have a lot much better traction when it comes to driving in snow and things like that,” Samuel said. “Now, that doesn't guarantee that it's, you're not going to have a slide off or a crash, because you still have to drive safe, still have to slow down, give yourself plenty of time when you're driving during those storms. But they do come in handy.”

According to UDOT, there are times when two-wheel-drive vehicles may be denied access to the canyons based on the weather conditions and the discretion of the police officer inspecting vehicles. As a general rule, the agency says, vehicles equipped with aggressive snow tires will be granted access.

Traction devices such as chains, snow socks and tire studs are also acceptable.

To get a sticker, head to cottonwoodcanyons.udot.utah.gov/sticker-program/ or Google Cottonwoods Canyons sticker program.

After filling out an online form, drivers can go to a Burt Brothers location for a quick tire inspection. As of Monday morning, both the Jeremy Ranch and Silver Creek Burt Brothers locations had stickers remaining.

Tom Pinkney, a manager at the Silver Summit location, said the inspection only takes a few minutes.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.