SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Take Off My Studs? Snow Way!
By Dave Kiffer


April 21, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - I suspect that about 80 percent of Ketchikan drivers broke the law last week.

I don't mean that we all drove 37.5 mph on that 30 mph stretch on south Stedman or 24.3 in the 20 mph school zone by the old Valley Park school, although I'm pretty sure we all did.

No, we all skipped the state imposed "take your studded tires off" deadline of April 15.

I'm sure that some of us were more concerned about the looming income tax deadline to notice. After all, the state of Alaska has never audited someone for taking off their tires a week or two late.

gif April weather

April Weather
By Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.

And perhaps some of us were a little lax with meeting the deadline because we are lazy (guilty as charged, your honor!). We're doing a lot of other things in mid April, like rubbing the winter cobwebs from our eyes and thinking about tackling our spring "Honey Do" list.

Note that I said "thinking" about tackling the list.. I didn't say actually tackling the list. If we did that it would irrationally raise expectations that tackling the spring Honey Do list would become an annual event. That would inexorably change life as we know it.

The real reason we weren't schlepping off our studded tires on Saturday was that nasty bit of snow that hit Our Fair Salmon City on Friday and Saturday. To make matters worse, it further snowed a wee bit on Monday night as well. When the roads are slick and icy, you aren't going to take off your snow tires no matter what the law says.

I can't imagine the troopers waiting at the top of some hill and busting anyone whose car makes it to the top without spinning out. Over the years I've even seen trooper cars with studs on after well the deadline, but I'm sure they have some special dispensation.

And why do we take them off anyway? Well, it has to do with the wear and tear on our streets and highways. The state DOT says that keeping studded tires on year-round would cause our roads to wear out even faster.

Frankly, it's hard to imagine the roads being in any worse shape than they already are year in and year out. I guess if we kept the studs on all year, we'd be driving on broken pavement and mud all the time. Which we already are. Go figure.

What is a little hard to figure out is the specific date. Why April 15? To confuse us?

"Honey, don't forget to take off the studded income taxes and electronically file our snow tires tomorrow!"

April 15 seems like a fairly arbitrary date anyway. In most parts of the state, there is still snow on the ground in mid April. Heck, it's only a month after the Iditarod is run for goodness sake!

Fortunately, for us down here, it isn't usually snowy around April 15. We don't get that much snow (Valdez gets 200 feet).

A friend who keeps pretty good weather records says that snow on this year's April 15th is the latest we've had snow in many, many years (that was of course, before the additional snow on Monday April 17th).

We are in the Banana Belt down here. If we are having snow on April 15, then it must still be 50 below in Fairbanks and at least 100 feet deep in Valdez. Bet they've still got their studs on this week too.

As always, I am left to wonder if there is some ulterior motive - some conspiracy - in the selecting of this tire rotation date.

Such as:

The Permanent Fund is heavily invested in automotive tire company stocks (buy early, buy often)?

The governor doesn't like tire studs because they make the road too bumpy for his royal hiney-ness?

The EPA has listed Alaskan roadways as a threatened/endangered species and use of cars could be limited or eliminated altogether?

Inquiring minds want to know!

At any rate (say about 5 12 percent!), I was a little concerned that the lack of lawfullness regarding my studs could set a bad example for my son who is always reminding me to buckle him up so "the policeman won't take you to jail."

I needn't have worried.

My five-year-old still maintains a healthy respect for law and order.

We were driving around during last Friday's snowstorm and when we stopped for a stop sign, some of the snow on the roof of the car slid over the windshield.

"Uh oh,:" Liam announced from his back seat booster seat (fully compliant with all applicable state laws!).

"It's okay," I replied, turning on the windshield wipers. "See, the snow's all gone."

"No Daddy," Liam continued. "the police man is going to come."


"To take the snow to jail."


"The snow didn't stop when we got to the stop sign."


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at

Dave Kiffer ©2006

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