Winter driving conditions can be one of the trickiest things for California travelers. You thought driving in the rain was bad? Try white-outs, my friend.
Here are some tips for hitting the roads up to your mountain get-away.
Check the Weather and Road Conditions
The best way to get their safe is to check ahead and prepare for the driving conditions you'll be in for:
For weather and storm advisories:
For road conditions:
Caltrans – Type in the highway you'll be traveling, e.g., the 80 or the 50
Truckee.com – Has weather, Caltrans updates and links to resort live cams
For resort conditions:
On the Snow – For how many runs are open at area resorts
What the Heck to Do with Tire Chains
Have chains with you, even if you're in an SUV. They cost less if you buy them locally at a auto parts store, like O'Reilly, Autozone, Pep Boys, etc. They range from $60 to $120 and up, depending on your car. In some conditions CHP will require you to have chains with you, even if you are in a 4-wheel drive vehicle. So better safe than sorry.
Watch out for chain control areas. - Signs on the highway will tell you you're approaching a chain control area. It will probably be extremely busy and backed up way down the highway, so watch out for other cars and 18-wheelers that are pulling over to the side to put their chains on, too. Most people go right to the side when they start to see people pulling over, so if you continue forward, there's often space closer to the front and the chain workers aren't as busy. - If you're in a 4-wheel drive or once you get your chains on, you'll then drive through the check-point so CHP can verify you're good to go. - Sometimes they have just the checkpoint to make sure you're carrying tire chains with you because it might snow before you reach the pass. And sometimes if the roads are really bad, CHP will just stop traffic and you'll be parked...for hours...until they reopen the highway.
Know how to install chains, or hire someone who does.
- It usually costs $30-50 to have chain installers put them on or $15 to get them taken off...worth it! - There may be a front and a back side that have different attachments. The “easier” attachment or hook goes on the back side of the tire (towards the engine). With cables, one side is smooth, and that side should go down against the tire. - Wrap the cables or chains over the tire. Driven 2' or 3' over them and turn the wheel to 5 o'clock to make it easier to hook them up. Clasp the back, and then wrestle the front side facing you and get them as tight as you can (they loosen up when you drive).
Take your chains off after you're over the pass or through the snow.Once you go over the pass or the snow eases up, pull over at a safe spot and take them off. There may be another chain control area and workers to help you.
Here are some more tips for how to drive in the snow, including parking and popping your wipers up...like a local...so they don't get frozen to the windshield while you're in side.
Remember...go slow...and get there safe!
We're very lucky to be in the first Truckee neighborhood that you get to from the Bay Area...just 3 minutes from the Donner Pass Road exit. Check out the Donner Bliss calendar to see when you can make it for a mountain getaway with your family and friends!
When you finally make it up, here's all the winter fun you can have!