Will be in Sacramento next week- hope to ski at any resort in Tahoe. Looks like there might be a snowstorm late week and only have a ford fusion rental (no $$for SUV). What road is best- most likely I-80 to sugar bowl? What's the deal with chain requirements on state hwys - 88 to kirkwood-- are chains only for trucks or for all? was hoping to try SAT or Kirkwood.
Sacramento to Tahoe in snowstorm, need advice
The coming storm isn't looking huge. A front-wheel drive car with chains will easily make it over 80 or 50. Without chains, they'll turn you back, if there's snow on the road. I'd recommend buying chains to fit the tires on your rental. If you don't need them, return them on the way back.
I like taking I-80 to the North Lake Tahoe resorts (Squaw, Apline, Northstar, Sugarbowl, etc.). I've found they do a good job keeping that road going. I've also heard taking 50 to South Lake Tahoe (Kirkwood, Sierra, Heavenly, etc.) is good. Keep in mind that 89 is usually closed in the winter; so, getting between north and south is not straightforward. Also, don't overlook Homewood in West Lake Tahoe. It's right on 89, which is usually closed just south of there.
Sometimes Priceline.com can give you very good deal on an SUV. Figure out $30-40 for chain, and make sure you know how to put them on. BTW, cheap chains have a nasty habit of falling off the wheels and then you are really screwed, there are people who put them on for you for $20, but that's again an extra cost. An SUV may be a bargain considering the hassle and additional costs. I80 is probably the best road traveling in a snowstorm. If there is snow falling getting from North to South Tahoe is a long slog. If you dont have a lot of time, I'd recommend concentrating on resorts ion one area (Heavenly and Kirkwood or Squaw/Alpine and Northstar).
- 142 Posts. Joined 9/2005
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Every place i've ever seen won't let you return chains. Even if they are not used. Another option is the bay area ski bus which stops in sacramento/folsom. It's going up on Monday and wednesday. http://www.bayareaskibus.com/index.cfm/schedule.htm
You don't necessarily need an SUV, you just need a car with AWD and M+S tires. In general, Cal Trans does not mess around with chain controls if it's anywhere close to questionable - they'll be on the 80 and 50 for sure next week.
You don't need to know how to put chains on. There are guys out on the freeway right before the chain check that will put them on for you for $20-30. But I'm pretty sure they don't sell chains. So buy them beforehand. And as bullhorn points out, most places that sell chains do not accept returns, even if unused.
As someone who drives up the 80 in the snow quite frequently, let me follow this up by saying you should do the exact opposite of this. Why on earth would you sit in the right lane with all of the Walmart and FedEx trucks?
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I just drove I-80 on 29 Feb. Had chains on from Colfax to Truckee (~50 miles). Putting on chains and driving 20-30mph in the middle of the night added almost three hours to my trip (got to Reno a little after midnight). The guys putting on chains were charging $30. I made the mistake of having a front wheel drive Mazda3 with summer tires. I got chains a few seasons back from Autozone and they were too big (this eventually caused minor damage outside of my wheel-well). Make sure they fit and you know how to put them on! They guys putting on chains also offered to sell you chains and put them on for $80. Bring a tarp to lay down next to your car to keep dry while you are putting the chains on. I would also suggest extra chain tensioners and some twist ties to take up any extra slack in the chains (there shouldn't be if you have good fitting chains). I would also have a flashlight or headlamp so you can see what you are doing at night. Watch some youtube videos on how to put on chains. If you haven't put on chains before, $30 in the middle of a storm at night is probably worth it (watch the guy put them on so you know how if you need them on/off again).
After all of that, I wanted to trade my Mazda3 in for a Subaru (with snow tires) that weekend ...
Truck crashes are usually what closes 80. Follow with care.
Chain up in the garage and it's not too bad. That doesn't work if your garage is in SF.
Personally I don't mind chains. Stopping with chains may be better than AWD braking. But why is the chain up area always in a small lake?
In my experience, it is more often SUVs with big fat bald tires that drive themselves into the snowbank near the Donner Lake Interchange. Although a jack-knifed tractor trailer will do it quickly too.
Same reason it is always raining/sleeting/snowing at the chain-up area.
If you are going to put chains on, here are some things to have with you:
Waterproof pants and jacket (preferably not the gear you plan to ski in the next day, but it will do in a pinch)
Rubberized gloves or at least some sort of non-ski gloves
Small tarp or other material to kneel on
spare Bungee cords or other tensioning device
Umbrella and assistant to hold it
One of those cyalume sticks in place of or in addition to headlamp
Towel to dry off when you're done
$30 cash for a chain monkey to do it for you (I'd probably refrain from calling them 'chain monkey' to their face)
Practicing in your dry clean driveway or garage is a great thing to do. Plus that way if you have spare chain, you can cut it off so it doesn't slap against your bodywork and ruin your paint.
Oh, and make sure you know which set of wheels drive your car. I have seen chains on the front wheels of RWD cars and vice versa. It's funny if you're not the one in the car.
To alexzn's point, I have personally come to the conclusion that chains are not worth it for my cars, all of which are front-wheel drive. After one quite bad experience and a few broken chains, I have switched to Spikes Spiders. These are expensive and make sense only for long-term ownership. Regardless, there's something very secure about having some metal gripping the road, especially when braking.
If I were in the original poster's position, I'd probably choose chains. As an able-bodied person who owns waterproof boots, a jacket and a headlamp, I don't find them so onerous that I'd pay someone $30 to install them.
Basically if there's *any* snow accumulation then chain controls will be in place.
Edited by JayT - 3/8/12 at 11:02pm
What are Spikes Spiders? Are they easy to install?
I once got through chain control by tying a rope through my wheel. Worked OK for traction and they were relatively easy to install. But they didn't last well. Removal was not an issue.