When an ATV rider or enthusiast is figuring out the logistics of a wintertime drive, they don’t want to miscalculate and accidentally strand themselves in deep, dangerous, snowy conditions. If someone were to drive their ATV through extremely snowy conditions, how much snow can their ATV realistically and safely handle? Here are the best ways to determine if snowy conditions are safe or not for ATV driving!

Most ATVs can drive over a few inches of light snow, but they do not handle heavy, wet, or deep snow well. The ATV size, weight, tire type, and the condition of the snow will all impact how well the ATV can drive over it. Experience is the best way to see if a personal ATV can handle local snow.

What makes some ATVs better equipped and prepared to handle snow than other vehicles? What should ATV owners be aware of to avoid dangerous situations and prepare themselves and their machines for adverse weather and conditions? Let’s go over what to know and remember when it comes to ATV handling dos and don’ts in the deep snow!

ATV Driving in Light, Dry, and Fluffy Snow Conditions

Each ATV will handle snowy conditions with varying levels of success depending on the vehicle’s size, weight, tire brand, and the condition how wet, how packed, and how deep the local snowfall is. If there are only a couple of inches of snow on the ground, and if it is light, dry, or fluffy, it will be comparatively easier to drive on top of that heavy, wet, or deep snow.

Since dry, powdery snow weighs next to nothing and is easily blown around the landscape, basically, all ATVs can handle it. ATVs are pretty heavy and can press down and gain traction pretty easily on top of the light, impressionable snow. Even if the snow is lighter though, it can be difficult to keep the snow in front of ATV plowing blades. As a driver gains speed, powdery and light snow will start overflowing the plow blade, which means the driver will need to take several passes at built-up snow to move all of it. This all means it can be tough to clear out and drive over snow, even if it is powdery.

Most environments will get deep and light snow only a few times each year, on the plus side. Even if a place doesn’t have consistent snowfall in the winter months, it is essential to know what types of snow an ATV can take on before jumping to conclusions and assuming the driving conditions are safe.

ATV Driving in Wet, Compact, and Heavy Snow Conditions

ATV driving becomes difficult at the best of times and impossible at the worst of times when wet, compact, or heavy snow is on the ground. The more wet and compact that snow is, the harder it is to drive on and plow out of the way.

This is where things start to become a bit more challenging. The wetter and more compact the snow gets, the harder it will be to plow. This is true with all snowplows as well, not just with ATVs. Even if an ATV is well equipped for wet snow, it will likely only be able to handle about 4 inches of compact or wet snow, if that. The heavier and wetter that snow is, the harder it is to drive an ATV over or through it! Drivers run the risk of getting their ATV stuck, or at the very least being unable to continue driving at all if they try to drive their vehicles in these conditions.

The Average Limit of Snow Most ATVs Can Handle

It is a great idea to review ATV public online forums. These accessible communities gather real ATV drivers together so that they can talk and share firsthand about their experiences with driving their ATVs in different levels of snow! Try to search out and find ATV owners who have the same brand of ATV as a personal vehicle to get the best feedback on if a personal ATV can handle different types of shallow or deep snow. Most ATVs can handle around 6 inches or less of snow, but if levels rise far beyond that, some ATVs may get stuck or gain no traction on the ground. ATVs can handle different conditions depending on their specs and environmental conditions. People in another forum said that even 4-wheel ATVs will not be able to usually handle snow that reaches around 8 to 13 inches or more, but these extreme conditions are luckily not as common in most areas.

One person on the Plow Site website public forum said that most ATVs will not perform well in deep or heavy snow. They own a Kawasaki Brute Force 650, and they said it worked well in a few inches of snow, but it would not drive very far at all in a lot of heavy and wet snow! Another poster reported that 500cc ATVs will often have more than enough power to deal with a few inches of snow. It was also said in another forum that ATV mud tires are basically worthless in the snow, so test the snow first to see if a nice footprint can be made to see if the tires will have better luck gaining traction before driving onto it. A 750 Brute ATV can handle quite a bit of snow with no pushing issues as well.

Another ATV user said that their 06 Polaris Sportsman 800 ATV plows large amounts of snow very well. Make sure that any chains on ATV plows are not damaging any driveways and sidewalks, as heavy chains can drag and even damage concrete in some situations.

Owners of Yamaha Rhino ATVs with Cycle Country blades will find no issues with pushing snow out of the way. One ATV owner reported this is a great brand to use in the snow, especially if the driver puts 3 sandbags in the ATV box to help add weight and traction to the experience. The 08 Polaris Ranger 500 EFI ATV is another fantastic model, with plenty of power and drive under the hood to tackle the snow. Then there is the Rancher 350 ATV paired with a 48-inch plow, which can take on and push snow, dirt, and stone out of the driving path. Finally, the ’04 Sportsman 500 HO ATV with a 60-inch snow plow works well on dry, light snow, or on plowing done during a winter storm.

Sometimes the size of the ATV matters much less than most people would think! For instance, Yamaha brand ATVs will often use the same frame sizes from their new 550 models through to the 700 models. This means that newer models will have more power, but may be identical in size to older models, and thus may tackle snow better than others. Most people reported that 400cc ATVs can have enough power to conquer snow sometimes, and 500cc ATVs are usually adequate.

One owner of a 350 Honda Rancher ATV reported that this model of ATV works stupendously with a Cycle Country state plow added on to help clear snow. This type of ATV with this plow add-on can plow up to over a foot of snow at certain times! The Polaris 400 Xplorer models of ATVs have the power to deal with snow if they are outfitted with 60-inch blades. Another ATV owner reported that they felt that power isn’t everything with ATVs when it comes to dealing with snow. Pay attention to how much weight an ATV has, as adequate power and weight are both essential for driving through the snow!

To improve and raise the total weight of an ATV that isn’t making it through the snow, try weighing the vehicle down. Sandbags, ATV add-on devices, and other weighty objects can help increase traction over snow. Add a front or rear basket with weight in it to raise the total weight, and make sure that snow being driven on or plowed has a place to go and gets pushed out of the way! Before buying a Cycle Country blade, double-check with the manufacturer or seller to make sure that the plow will work well with the ATV.

ATVs that weigh about 250 pounds or higher will handle well over snow, and 300 pounds should be plenty over snow. Sometimes it is more than worthwhile to invest in special ATV snow tires as well. This is because regular ATVs are often sold with normal tires that may not be outfitted with well-tractioned tires. ATV drivers can invest in snow tires and different models of ATVs to determine the best vehicle combinations for snow driving.

When it comes to ATV plowing, a common issue can arise with the width. ATV drivers should have their plow size equal just over the width of the ATV tires when they are in the angled position. Owners of 500 model ATVs will need the width to be less than 50 inches wide, usually the width of stock tires! If ATV owners can use different models of Cycle Country plows to remove snow efficiently.

Preparing an ATV for Snowy Weather and Conditions

Some people who are especially concerned about their ATV handling snow will invest in their ATV by buying a snowplow to add onto it so the ATV can then plow snow itself. People can also buy a snowplow to use on their property and surroundings to get ahead of a snowstorm and lessen the snow buildup before it gets unmanageable.

Snow is the toughest terrain for ATVs to deal with, due to the harsh freezing temperatures and unpredictable ground. The better traction, modifications, power, plowing capabilities, and engine an ATV have, the better it will be able to handle snow. With add-ons to improve these factors, an ATV could handle upwards of 2 feet of snow! Power and plowing add-ons make driving easier since the more snow that is moved out of the way, the better. Look over the ATV’s owner’s manual to check the lowest temperature that the vehicle can be operated. Next, consider buying or adding on an engine block heater, a freeze-resistant fluid, a battery charger, and an electronic fuel injector, or EFI to better the snow capabilities of an ATV.

Most ATV owners will decide to either get a plow add-on for their ATV, or they will spend some money and get an ATV snowblower instead to combat snowfall. ATV snow plows work very well for nearly any depth of dry snow and can clear average or low depths of wet snow. Snow plows for ATVs are usually pretty maneuverable, and fast, and are fantastic for clearing off sidewalks, driveways, and other areas! Be aware though, if snow drifts are deep and heavy, it may be better to use a heavier machine or a snowblower instead! There are helpful ATV snowplow websites online as well which can be consulted on the best types to buy.

Powdery and lighter snow can prove to be an issue even for ATV snow plows and plowing attachments. This is because snowdrifts and piles can still overflow over the plow blade, causing the ATV plow driver to need to make a few passes at snow before it can be completely cleared out. In these cases, consider upgrading the ATV plow with a nifty rubber deflector on top of the blade so that the snow won’t overflow! A well-made ATV plow won’t have too big issues with clearing out a couple of inches of even the heaviest snow! When the snow gets from 6 to 8 inches deep, most plows will start to perform less and less adequately.

If an ATV should get stuck in a snow field or tall snow banks, all is not lost! Hopefully, if the ATV gets stuck near a solid anchor point, like a big-enough tree or a lamppost, the vehicle can thankfully be winched out. If the ATV can get winched to a section of ground with traction, it can be driven out of too-deep snow areas and back into a driveable spot. If worst comes to worst, a separate car or truck could be hooked up to and used to haul an ATV out of a snow bank!

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