Yes, You Can Drive the AWD Toyota GR Corolla in the Snow!

Photography: Sam Du

  • The Bridgestone Winter Driving School opened its doors in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in 1983.
  • It is the largest purpose-built winter driving school of its kind in the U.S. that transforms an 80-acre hayfield into three different road courses formed from snow and ice.
  • Toyota has been a vehicle partner of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School for over a decade supplying vehicles such as the Camry, RAV4, and GR86.
  • Pit+Paddock was invited to partake in a special media experience at the school which featured a class driving the turbocharged GR Corolla hatchback.
  • With roots in rally racing, Toyota highlighted the GR Corolla’s all-wheel-drive performance which allows drivers to control torque distribution.
  • Equipped with Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 tires, the GR Corolla demonstrated incredible control and offered an enormous fun factor even in the slickest conditions.


For the last 18 years of my life, I’ve been lucky enough to call Los Angeles home. The summers are long, winters short, and the possibility of snow and ice is nonexistent. Last year, I picked up a 2023 Toyota GR Corolla as a project car, which went to the SEMA Show, but ultimately, the goal was to transform it into a fun daily driver while giving it the boost in performance it needs for spirited track days. Never in my plans was I going to plow the GRC through a snowstorm; however, I do understand it’s a huge selling point of the AWD hatch. Well, last winter, an unreal opportunity landed on my lap when Toyota invited me to partake in a one-day driving school to test its 300hp GR Corolla on snow and ice. Why the hell not considering I wouldn’t be putting my own project car at risk!


I hopped on a plane to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, which might have one of the smallest airports I’ve visited (outside of Moab, Utah). If you haven’t heard of Steamboat Springs, it’s probably because you’re not a skier or snowboarder. There are a surprising number of non-stop flights from major cities and it’s become a popular Rocky Mountain getaway for families and friends without the price tag of an Aspen or Vail.

Stepping off the plane and breathing the ice-cold air, the temperature was well below freezing.  Aside from the airport runway, there’s nothing but a blanket of white everywhere you look. I made my way to the Steamboat Grand Hotel & Resort, famous for its heated outdoor pools, which were to my surprise also packed with people despite it being a February afternoon in the twenties. After a short welcome dinner with Toyota and other journalists, the fun would start early the next morning when I’d be enrolled as a returning student of the Bridgestone Winter Drive School.


More than 15 years ago, I visited the Bridgestone Winter Driving School as a magazine editor. My mission was to review one of the latest Blizzak tires at the time, which to this day, the Blizzak line is still by far the standard when it comes to high-performance winter tires. They’ve even been tested to outperform studded tires time and time again. For my exercise with the GR Corolla, the standard Michelin summer tires have been swapped out for the Blizzak WS90 “Studless Ice & Snow” tires.

While tire technology has improved, not a lot has changed about the school (including some of the instructors, one remembered me from my first trip!). This just goes to show that the programming of the school is working and working well. Here are some additional interesting facts about the Bridgestone Winter Driving School:

  • Born in 1983, the school transformed an 80-acre hayfield into a winter playground with three road courses.
  • Each road course features all the types of sharp turns, challenging corners, hairpins, slaloms, and elevation changes you’d find in a proper track.
  • Most of the clientele are out-of-towners, especially businesses offering advanced training to their employees, law enforcement, and ambulance drivers.
  • For more than a decade the Denver region of Toyota has been a title sponsor and partner of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School supplying front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive, and all-wheel-drive vehicles for teachers and students.
  • The Toyota GR Corolla is not part of their regular roster of vehicles because quite frankly, it’s a lot of car and power for most students trying to learn, which makes this opportunity that much more special!


Bridgestone Winter Driving School started with nearly two hours of classroom instruction going over the basics, dos, and don’ts. Before jumping into the GR Corolla, the class drove Camrys and 4Runners going through a series of drills on the skid pad. Here, we performed braking exercises, engaged in long sweeping turns, and learned how to induce more oversteer while practicing good vision, speed adjustment, and separation of controls.

I still had quite a bit of difficulty getting the right amount of steering input along with proper entry speeds. This often caused me to understeer a bit too much; a couple of times I barely missed tapping a snowbank. But when it was time to hop in the GR Corolla, I was amazed at how much more fun and confident I felt in a car that was engineered from rally racing and designed to perform in these types of conditions.


The GR-Four all-wheel-drive system proved to be solid and in all three torque splits from 60:40, 50:50, and 30:70. I kept the torque distribution mostly in its 50:50 “track mode” which has a slight understeer on the ice, but for me, it felt the safest and best for me to push myself. The 30:70 rear bias mode was a favorite for everyone impersonating their best Sébastien Loeb impressions.

My last drill of the day was taking the GR Corolla on a shortened hot lap. I remember seeing my speedometer get up to 70mph before I thought to myself, I’d better slow down before I had to buy another GR Corolla. Squeezing the throttle and running up the gears, and it goes fast! Slow down and point the steering wheel where you want to go, and it turns. Give yourself enough braking distance, and it’ll stop shorter than you think.


Now I must say that I wasn’t power sliding around as many corners as the more experienced journalists, but I felt comfortable and in control while I’ve only driven aggressively in the snow a couple of times in my lifetime. Many of the journalists were bummed at the idea of not running hot laps after hot laps, but when an instructor was giving a ride-along and pinned a GR Corolla in the ditch, it was no mystery why Toyota felt the need to hold us, journalists, back. It was also a reminder that just because you have all-wheel-drive and snow tires, doesn’t mean you’re invincible.

Having spent a day on the slopes of Steamboat Springs and maneuvering its various obstacles, the GR Corolla has proven itself in in the iciest conditions. I’m sad that I didn’t develop the art of sliding in a day, but I did leave with a better understanding of how well the traction of the Blizzaks remains, and how perfectly matched they are when paired with the right vehicle platform, and how incredibly quick you can the drive GR Corolla in the snow.