By STEPHEN KRCMAR
A running joke about mountain weather: “If you don’t like it, wait 15 minutes and it will change.” But you can be prepared for any winter storm that blows in with a product like Thule’s K Summit chains.
Thule claims that the external, zero-clearance snow chain fits perfectly on the outside of a wheel and tire so it won’t interfere with vehicle components (braking, ABS, steering, suspension). Further, the claim is that it “installs in a matter of minutes” without the need to permanently install anything to the rim. After installation, the K-Summit chains — which cost a pretty $450 — are purported to automatically self tension as you drive.
In my test, the above claims were true. I used the snow chains for much of last winter driving to and from Mammoth Mountain on many of the storm days during a 480-inch season.
Some days, there was just a bit of snow on the ground. Other days there was several inches to plow through. Occasionally, I got caught in heavy snow and whiteout conditions and the chains performed admirably.
But for most of the year, no matter what Mammoth could throw my way, the K-Summits were superlative. Unlike inexpensive auto-store chains, the pricey Thule chains fit well — none of that annoying “thwack, thwack, thwack” sound. And I could cruise at a comfortable speed.
Further, the ease of installation meant I used them more — they were so easy to throw on, I always erred on the side of putting them on, which was a safe move. That’s something I can’t say about other chains I’ve owned.
All said and done, they take just a few minutes to install and less time to remove. But the initial install will take longer. That’s why I’m writing this now. If you’re getting chains this winter, regardless of the model, buy them now and learn how to install and remove while it’s still relatively warm and dry outside. And if you have the money, definitely consider the K-Summit. (www.thuleracks.com)
—Stephen Krcmar lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.