SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

To Stud or Not To Stud



November 20, 2016
Sunday PM

Ketchikan, Alaska -
In life there are a lot of choices.

jpg  Dave Kiffer

Paper or plastic?

Boxers or briefs?

To be or not to be?

But one that has always seemed obvious to me just got called in question.

Studs or no studs?

It's that time of year when many Alaskans think nothing of swapping out ye old summer tires for ye old winter ones.

Yeah, I realize that in the 21st Century they have these things called "all weather tires."




That's a good one. Really. All weather??? All weather if you live in Southern California where all "all weather" is 80 degrees and sunny.

Except of course if you are a Ketchikandian who brings his bio-clime with him. Did I ever tell you how I moved to SoCal for college and singlehandedly ended a 15-year drought? True story. It was raining so hard that caskets were floating down the streets.

But I digress.

We don't cotton much to "all weather" tires in these here parts because they don't work so well in our rain and snow and ice and slush and sleet and......all weather.

You see, you actually need some traction if you want to drive safely around Ketchikan in inclement weather. Which in Ketchikan is a redundant phrase. All weather is inclement.

Anyhow, the other day, I was tooling around town with a spanky new set of studded snow tires and an acquaintance dissed me.

"Those are bad for the roads, you know."

Yes, "I know."

I hate it when people say "you know" as if you actually don't.

Of course, you know. And they know you know. They wouldn't say it otherwise. It's like when they say "with all due respect." Not meaning a word of it, of course.

Of course, I do know that studded tires are "allegedly" bad for the roads.

I'm a guy after all. Guys know this sort of stuff. Especially about cars. Have to be an idiot not to. Just like I automatically knew to change the oil in the truck I got when I turned 16 in order to prevent the oil from evaporating and the engine seizing up tighter than Celto-Alaskan's wallet. Which is what happened cause no one ever told me about changing the oil. But that's another story.

In general though, there is some sort of genetic, informational "pass down" you get from your forbearers. For example, I just know that somewhere in my DNA past some female Kiffer made some crack that a male Kiffer didn't know diddly about "wagon wheel axels" and how you have to put "axel grease" on them or they will seize up tighter than a German Burgermeister's wallet. Therefore I am always careful to grease up my wagon wheels. Sheesh.

At any rate.....which reminds me of legendary Kayhi teacher Phil Mycherin who would always interrupt any one who said "At any rate" with "How about six percent?"

But I digress, again.

We were talking tires here.

It seems that studded snow tires are bad for the roads of Alaska because they cause cracks and bumps and potholes. Which must mean if it wasn't for studded snow tires, the roads of Alaska would DEFINITELY NOT be undergoing "spring break up" all year round.

And we certainly have a lot of cracks and bumps and potholes in our roads. So curse you, you studded snow tires!

But don't jump to hasty conclusions (once again, if you didn't jump they wouldn't be hasty, right?).

"With all due to respect" to the state transportation gurus, I tend to think that permafrost, inclement weather and earthquakes, as well as significant temperature swings, may just have something to do with the state of our roads in this state.

Unfortunately as competent and high functioning as the State Legislature is, it has still not passed important legislation to do away with permafrost, inclement weather, earthquakes and significant temperature swings. So therefore it must look a little lower on the cause of "bad roads" totem pole and limit studded snow tires.

But we Ketchikanites live in a place where road traction is kind of important. Sure we don't get much snow and ice here, but when we do even a whisper of it is bad because of all of our hills and narrow roads. And how many times have you found yourself hydroplaning along Tongass Avenue in a "drizzle" wishing you had a "rudder" to steer with?

So that leads me to the inescapable conclusion that it is probably better to have a little bit of studded tire damage to our roads, rather than a lot of sliding car damage to other cars and property.

Of course, the state of Alaska disagrees with me and that's why twice a year I have to switch out a pair of perfectly good tires for another pair of perfectly good tires. While other parts of the country are grumping about the inconvenience of Daylight Savings Time shifts, I am grumping about the inconvenience of Studded Tire Shifts (also known as Alaskan Road Saving Time).

Yep, every year the state says you must ditch your snow tires in Ketchikan by April 15. And then they extend the deadline because there is a late snow storm or two. Up north they usually end up extending it several times, usually until Labor Day, at which point the next winter season starts.

And if you don't change out your snow tires? Well, sometimes you get pulled over by the studded tire police. Seriously, several years ago, both my wife and I got pulled over for having studs on "after the deadline."


We have a major methamphetamine problem in Our Fair Salmon City and they are pulling over cars because of studded snow tires?

Of course, it was in August and those studs did sound pretty loud chipping away at the pavement on an 80-degree day.

At any rate. It's always good to know that enforcement priorities will always be stalwartly prosecuted in the Land of the Free(zing) Rain.


On the Web:

Columns by Dave Kiffer

Historical Feature Stories by Dave Kiffer


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

Dave Kiffer ©2016

Representations of fact and opinions in comments posted are solely those of the individual posters and
do not represent the opinions of Sitnews.


Submit A Letter to SitNews

Contact the Editor

SitNews ©2016
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

 Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews may be protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.

E-mail your news & photos to

Photographers choosing to submit photographs for publication to SitNews are in doing so granting their permission for publication and for archiving. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests for purchasing a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.


SitNews ©2014
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

Contact the Editor