NoCal...SFO, Tahoe skiing is this doable?

Jan 5th, 2003, 09:42 PM
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Patrick - Northstar is OVER the summit past Truckee. Chains are seldom needed there except on the hwy 267 summit. It is getting OVER the mountains from the west that the problems arise. So far this year major storms have resulted in chain requirements even for 4WD three times and totally closed roads 4 or 5 times, twice for more than 10 hours due to whiteout, gale forced winds and wrecks (of the dopes who try to do the summit w/o chains) - just so far. if Bob is renting a car in the bay area he may or may not be allowed to put chains on it. If he can't he will not get over the mountains. Very often the CHP screens for chains even in good weather - usually just east of Auburn and Placerville. If you don't have them in the car you are not allowed on the road. And hwy 50 - Bob's likely route is even more chains-prone than hwy 80. Bob would have been much better of driving to SLT from reno since that road is less likely to have blizzard conditions and chain requirements.
Jan 6th, 2003, 12:55 PM
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Jan 6th, 2003, 01:14 PM
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I guess I've been lucky. I've been going to Tahoe for over 30 years and have owned a cabin at South Shore for the past 20 years. I've always had a four wheel drive. While the law may be contrary, I have never been asked to put on chains or whether I was carrying chains when I have been on Hwy 50. Admittedly, I don't drive up during blizzards, but I have certainly driven up and back many times when it was snowing. I also think you people are exaggerating a little bit about the danger of such a major snow storm at the end of March. Although anything is possible, it is rather unlikely that you will have such a major storm at that time of year.
Jan 6th, 2003, 01:18 PM
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Actually, you are more likely to have chain requirements on Hiway 80 than Hiway 50 because the pass is farther north and gets more snow. I also have to say that I have never seen the highway patrol screen cars for chains in good weather. I've also never been asked to put chains on my four wheel drive.
Jan 6th, 2003, 01:26 PM
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But Ted, I'll bet you have snow tires. It is VERY common for 4WD vehicles with snow tires to be allowed when passenger vehicles must have chains, and you have the choice of driving up to Tahoe, or not, depending on the weather. You have to admit this season has had some outrageous storms and you probably decided not to drive up during one of the Dec blizzards. Bob will not have that luxury, he has set his dates and that is that. If it is stormy that week and he cannot get a 4WD with snow tires his plans may be out the window. That is something visitors don't realize, driving in the Sierras is not like in the midwest. Steep grades and chains are a fact of life out here. And I have spent several hours parked on the side of hwy 80 - even in March - while wrecks and chain controls are cleared. A couple of times in April and even once or twice in May.
Jan 6th, 2003, 01:27 PM
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For an official statement as to how the chain laws are enforced see the following site:
Jan 6th, 2003, 03:23 PM
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I've lived in El Dorado County for years and have never been asked to put chains on a four wheel drive vehicle. If the snow gets bad enough to require chains on a four wheel drive, the highway patrol simply closes the road. Anyone who says the highway patrol has required four wheel drives to put on chains this year is simply wrong.
Jan 6th, 2003, 06:06 PM
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Nevada Bob: You are right. EXCEPT, it is frequently 4 wheel drive WITH snow tires. What is poor Bob to do with his spiffy, expensive 4wd rental since he will obviously not have snow tires???????
Jan 6th, 2003, 07:51 PM
ChildCare Lady
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Hi! Live outside Sacramento.... When roads are good with minimal traffic it's 2 hours SF to Sacramento, and another 2 1/2 to Heavenly Valley on South Shore. Add 2-3 more hours if traffic is bad or there is chain control...
Jan 6th, 2003, 11:45 PM
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Wow, lots of misinformation flying around here. For practical purposes, CA has three levels of chain controls in the mountains:

R1 - 2WD needs chains OR snow tires; this is rarely used on I80 or US50 to Tahoe, they go straight to R2 because there is too much traffic.

R2 - 2WD REQUIRES chains, 4WD with snow tires OK.

R3 - Chains for everybody; pretty rare on a main highway, they usually just close the road till the plows catch up. I've only run into it once.

Dirty little secret ... nearly everybody has snow tires by CA terms; look for the little M+S on the side. I've only know CHP to check if you are carrying chains if they expect you will need them further up the road, but if they do check, 4WD isn't sufficient to meet the requirment.

Since you moved your time to end of Feb, you are in peak storm time. From my experience, you have about a 25% chance of having to use chains (on a 2WD) that time of year. Maybe a 10% chance of really bad weather (lifts closed by wind, 2-3 feet snow dump, multi hour road delays).

I would agree with avoiding Saturday skiing, but I would take my cue from the weather. If there is a storm due in, see if you can adjust your skiing days around it.

The worst drives are friday night heading up to Tahoe in a storm or the equivalent sunday afternoon coming down; even if the road doesn't close, it can turn into a 10 hour drive. This seems to happen 2 or 3 times a year.

You can buy cable chains at a Walmart, Kragen auto or similar store for $25-30. Some cars (Dodge Caravan for one) can't use normal chains because they don't have enough clearance around the wheels; you might want to check the owners manual before you leave the rental agency.
Jan 7th, 2003, 09:50 AM
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Agree with Tom. Just about every 4 wheel drive comes standard with m/s tires. Sometimes they're called all-terrain tires, but the highway patrol accepts them all. I drive a Suburban to Tahoe all the time, and I have never been asked if I had chains when I went through chain control. Maybe it has happened, but I've never heard of anyone being asked. Chains are a pain so just rent a 4 wheel drive Bob and you'll be ok unless a storm is so bad they close the highway.
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