A different kind of cold

Driving north on Highway 63, on the stretch between Grasslands and Fort McMurray, the road gets unbelievably icy.

When I make a trip and see only 4 flipped pickup trucks—I’m thinking, that’s very good.

You can’t accelerate at 90, or your vehicle will go sideways. And if it flips, it slides, instead of doing a complete roll.

When you stop, you can watch the frost build up on your vehicle as you are just sitting there. The frost grows on the hood even as you drive.

The higher humidity takes you by surprise when you’re coming from the south. But if you look at the climate and the geography of Alberta, it’s not hard to understand. Of the major cities, Calgary has the lowest average relative humidity in the country. It gets increasingly humid the farther you go north. And it’s even more obvious in the winter months. Once you get past Grasslands, even on a sunny winter day, the few percentage points increase turns the road from dry to icy.

Highway 63 has been notorious for its high volume of traffic and many tragic accidents. The twinning of the highway, completed recently, was a response to that. A common perception is that the road has a lot of crazy speeders rushing to get to their jobs. But to my mind, that doesn’t make sense when I think of how much safety consciousness there is in the attitudes of the people who live and work there.

An overlooked cause of accidents could be this: The speed that you know is safe on the roads you are used to, can be too fast on this road.

This road is not the same, because the cold is not the same.