White Winter Roads

There are two things that surprised me when I first saw the Russian roads during winter. First of all, the excess snow gets removed, but the roads are never completely cleaned. A layer of snow always remains on the road surface. This might seem dangerous, but it is actually for safety. Winter tires are specifically designed to provide a pretty good grip on snow. Things get really slippery and dangerous when the temperatures go up and approach zero degreed Celsius (32 Fahrenheit) and/or there is so little snow that the heat caused by its compression between the tire and the road pavement makes it melt, creating a thin layer of water. I actually remember hearing all about it a few years ago when I was watching an interesting American reality show about driving in the big North: Ice Road Truckers. I just never realised that this principle would hold true and be applied on city streets, as well. Yes, I am slow, that way. In Russia an important added bonus of the winter snow on roads is that it covers the omnipresent treacherous potholes, making you ride so much smoother, especially in the city outskirts and in the countryside.

The second thing that surprised me (and that, to this day I have never fully understood: if anyone knows please let me know in the comments!) is that even in the cities, the snow stays white. Take the picture above, for instance. I took it in the very centre of Ufa, a city with over 1.000.000 inhabitants and the traffic to match. In the distance you can see a couple of the innumerable old mini-busses that criss-cross the city every day, constantly spewing out black clouds of exhaust, and yet the particulate seems to just vanish and the snow stays white! Ok, of course is not detergent-advertisement grade white, but it doesn’t get black or brownish or even dark grey. What kind of sorcery is this? 😉

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