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Some winter fun in Breckenridge, Colorado with a Tesla Model X
Posted on February 27, 2020 by Charles Morris
Winter brings a host of challenges for automobiles and those who drive them - slippery streets, snowbound parking spaces, dead batteries, potholes and road grime. Tesla has touted its wintertime cred from the beginning, and the company’s phenomenal success in Norway and other Arctic climes speaks volumes. So, I was not anticipating any problems when I rented a Model X on Turo for a family skiing trip to Breckenridge, Colorado, and I’m happy to report that I didn’t have any.
Above: Model X has plenty of room for ski gear and luggage (Photo: Charles Morris)
A plain old economy rental car was out of the question for this trip - there were five of us, with winter clothing and other paraphernalia - we needed something big, and something snow-worthy. Having used the peer-to-peer rental platform Turo several times now, I doubt I’ll ever patronize any of the legacy rental agencies again. With Turo, you can choose the exact model of car you want, and there are Teslas on offer in most cities. Furthermore, I’ve found that with Turo, the logistics of picking up and dropping off the car are much simpler and quicker.
We rented a dual-motor Model X for six days for around $1,100. We could have rented a smoke-belching SUV for a couple hundred less, but what fun would that have been?
Picking up the car at Denver airport couldn’t have been easier. When we arrived, the owner texted us the location of the car (in an attached parking garage, a short walk from baggage claim), unlocked it remotely, and we were ready to roll. (The last time I rented a car in Denver, from one of the legacy agencies, we had to wait for a shuttle bus to take us to a parking lot a couple of miles away, then wait in line, endure a sales pitch for unneeded insurance products, then wait again while an agent checked out the car and got us the keys.)
My wife and I met my nephew and his family at a hotel in Denver’s trendy Cherry Creek neighborhood. Parking places were scarce - I found a spot, but it was a little tight. I activated the Model X’s Autopark feature, and it seemed to work just fine, but I must confess I chickened out and hit the brake about halfway through the process.
In the past, I’ve found Autopilot to work pretty smoothly in highway driving, but it had trouble handling the highway from Denver to Breck - there was construction going on for long stretches, which made the lanes alarmingly narrow, and Colorado does not seem to be blessed with a generous road maintenance budget - the lane markers were faded, and there were some scary potholes even on the Interstate. Every time I turned Autopilot on, it would kick back off after a short stretch, so I gave up and drove the old-fashioned way.
We stopped at the Silverthorne Supercharger, shortly before Breckenridge, and topped up to about 70% while we grabbed coffees at the adjacent Starbucks. It was beginning to snow.
Above: The Supercharger in Silverthorne, Colorado (Photo: Kief Morris)
We stopped in Frisco for grocery shopping, and by this time the parking lot was deep in snow. (A passerby saw the Falcon Wing doors opening and said, “That is officially cool!”)
At the shopping center I saw one of Electrify America’s new 350 kW charging stations - four CCS chargers. A snow-covered Nissan LEAF was plugged in. Unfortunately, Teslas can’t use these at the moment - a CCS adapter is supposed to be coming to the US soon, but as far as I know, it isn’t available yet.
Above: Electrify America's new 350 kW fast charging stations (Photo: Kief Morris)
When we arrived at our Airbnb condo in Breckenridge, the snow was a foot deep and still coming down fast. The parking lot had a steep driveway, and it was an adventure getting the Model X parked. I got to test out the Slip Start function, and it may just have saved our posteriors. It seems to be basically a smart traction control - I slipped and slid, but the tires were getting at least some traction, not spinning uselessly, and I finally managed to get into the parking spot.
Above: Snowbound but sunny (Photo: Denise Bonjour)
Low temperatures are bad for batteries, and EVs lose range in cold weather - that’s an inescapable fact. Sitting idle in sub-freezing temperatures, our Model X seemed to lose 5-7 percentage points of battery capacity each night. Of course, trickle charging (Level 1, 120 volts) would have eliminated this problem, but our condo didn’t have an outdoor electrical outlet (or if it did, it was buried in the snow).
Above: Level 2 charging at Breckenridge city hall (Photo: Charles Morris)
Breckenridge city hall has a free Level 2 charging station, so one day we left the car charging while we skied, which added about 20 percentage points of range (there’s only one stall, so we were lucky to get in). When we left Breck, we had just enough range to make it back to Denver.
We had an uneventful drive, and went to the Denver Airport Supercharger to top up the battery (we could have returned it without a full charge, but the owner would have hit us up for an extra fee). As many other road-trippers have noted, Supercharging is not always a trouble-free proposition, but we were lucky - although every Supercharger we stopped at was pretty busy, we were always able to find a spot without waiting. Charging levels can vary widely, however - we got 115 kW at Silverthorne, but the speed dropped to as low as 35 kW at Denver Airport.
Above: Our Turo Model X is ready for a thorough car wash, and we're ready to catch our plane (Photo: Charles Morris)
The last stop was a car wash, to get rid of a massive amount of ice and road grime. Parked in the airport garage, texted the owner, and we were on our way back to Florida - no more ice or snow for us for another year, but Turo and Tesla can both count us as delighted customers.
Written by: Charles Morris