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Do I need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to go to Mammoth?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

I'm going to be renting a car and driving from Reno via Tahoe to on January 15, 2015 en route to Las Vegas for a conference on January 18th, and am hoping to get my money's worth on the MCP (Mountain Collective Pass--I'm not a Male Chauvinist Pig) by doing Mammoth for the first time on the 16th and 17th.  It is considerably more expensive to rent an SUV, which appears to be the only guaranteed way of getting four wheel drive.  I've heard there can be restrictions on the roads getting to Mammoth, and don't think I'll be able to use chains on a rental vehicle. So far, I've been "lucky"--if you can call it that--on my last dozen trips out west, and it has only dumped when I wasn't there, so driving on snow-covered roads has not been a problem.  There is a huge discount for paying in advance, so I'd like to decide soon whether to spring for an SUV for one person.  I'm also thinking of squeezing in a day at Squaw or, more likely, Alpine Meadows on January 15th (also covered by the MCP, and both of which I have already skied) which could make things interesting if it actually, freakin' well SNOWS for once.  I'd rather not do Mammoth on Saturday on MLK weekend, but it makes no sense to do it before Tahoe if I'm heading south.  If anyone feels strongly I should avoid Mammoth that Saturday, please let me know, and maybe I'll skip Tahoe and just do Las Vegas Ski on Saturday.  And if any Mammoth skiers are going to be there and want to show me around, lemme know. 

post #2 of 16
I've made that drive a number of times. Most people approach Mammoth from the other direction so there may not be much traffic and it's desolate. If you encounter a storm a good portion of that drive would have snow and ice. Unless there's no chance of a storm if it were me I'd get an AW or 4W.
post #3 of 16

If you can't put chains on the rental vehicle, you need to get a 4WD.  Even AWD requires chains on some roads in CA during snowstorms.  We have a 4WD and have always been waved through when the roads are being monitored.  Spend the extra dollars and pray for a big snow storm!

post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Roger that, responders. Thanks.
post #5 of 16
Actually under California law four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive is treated equally. The below link provides the technical requirements.

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/chcontrl.htm
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
OK, so I just read about the difference between four wheel drive and all-wheel-drive, and I am still not completely enlightened. But I'm figuring that if I rent an SUV, it will come with M + S tires, which should be good enough for R2 conditions, which would explain why mustski gets waved through (unless mustski is irresistable to highway patrol personnel). A long, long time ago (1970's ?) my dad got hassled when he went to ski Mammoth, but was finally let through after they inspected his tires and he paid a hefty bribe (kidding). So I guess they are still serious about it in CA. I am not planning on gambling in Nevada, but am gambling on snow when I get there. One can only hope.
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorenzzo View Post

Actually under California law four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive is treated equally. The below link provides the technical requirements.

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/chcontrl.htm


The law about carrying chains is the same.  The difference is the way in which the chain control guys make their decisions.  They decide based on road conditions as to who has to pull over and install said chains.  I've never been asked to install chains on a 4WD while others have been asked to install on AWD during big storms.  It takes a pretty big storm I admit.  But isn't that what we all hope for?

 

Edited to add:  it's more or less chain control regulation 2.5!

post #8 of 16
Well it's not what the law says and it hasn't been my experience. You are either under R1, 2, 3. No distinction is made and the requirements are painfully clear. If it makes you feel better having four-wheel-drive great.

SnowBalz, If you have either a four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle with snow tires rated as per the link you're cool. Mandatory chains for such a vehicle would be a rare event. You might check with the car rental company and get the specific rating on their tires but if it is a winter SUV coming from Reno you would probably be fine. Bear in mind though you'll be going through Nevada as well.
post #9 of 16

The risk of bad driving conditions in Tahoe and Mammoth is overblown. If you can make your vehicle decision within 4 or 5 days of your trip the forecasts will be accurate enough. Although it can be "way big", snow falling in Tahoe and Mammoth is usually intense for a relatively short period of time and then Mother Nature and CalTrans clear the roads very well and very quickly because none of us "Cali's" can drive in the stuff and we think we're bullet proof in our trucks. When you are in Mammoth take at least one day and park at the bottom of Stump Alley/Chair 2 (you can get a lift ticket there) and then at the end of the day you can hang right there at the Mill Cafe.  Very cool old school/Southern California vibe as you watch the sun go down and the SoCal skiers come down the hill.  And btw, you do realize you are signing up for a good amount of driving. And you must absolutely slow down to whatever the posted limits are as you go through the small towns on 395 (Lee Vining, Coleville, etc.). If you want good BBQ there's a good place in Walker (Mountain View BBQ or something like that right on the side of 395 but their hours are a bit sketchy). In Mammoth stop in at the Mammoth Brewery and if you like cooked Japanese food the sukiyaki at Shogun is as good as we've ever found.  

post #10 of 16

you could just buy chains in Reno if you need them.  they're probably less expensive than the cost of the suv

post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by river-z View Post
 

you could just buy chains in Reno if you need them.  they're probably less expensive than the cost of the suv


I think the OP's original concern was that the rental company didn't allow chains.

post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowBalz View Post

OK, so I just read about the difference between four wheel drive and all-wheel-drive, and I am still not completely enlightened. But I'm figuring that if I rent an SUV, it will come with M + S tires, which should be good enough for R2 conditions, which would explain why mustski gets waved through (unless mustski is irresistable to highway patrol personnel). A long, long time ago (1970's ?) my dad got hassled when he went to ski Mammoth, but was finally let through after they inspected his tires and he paid a hefty bribe (kidding). So I guess they are still serious about it in CA. I am not planning on gambling in Nevada, but am gambling on snow when I get there. One can only hope.


If you have a rental SUV you will be good with R2.  My guess is Caltran would shut it down before it got to R3 (I've never seen R3).  Don't know about Nevada.

post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by SnowBalz View Post
 

I'm going to be renting a car and driving from Reno via Tahoe to on January 15, 2015 en route to Las Vegas for a conference on January 18th, and am hoping to get my money's worth on the MCP (Mountain Collective Pass--I'm not a Male Chauvinist Pig) by doing Mammoth for the first time on the 16th and 17th.  It is considerably more expensive to rent an SUV, which appears to be the only guaranteed way of getting four wheel drive.  I've heard there can be restrictions on the roads getting to Mammoth, and don't think I'll be able to use chains on a rental vehicle. So far, I've been "lucky"--if you can call it that--on my last dozen trips out west, and it has only dumped when I wasn't there, so driving on snow-covered roads has not been a problem.  There is a huge discount for paying in advance, so I'd like to decide soon whether to spring for an SUV for one person.  I'm also thinking of squeezing in a day at Squaw or, more likely, Alpine Meadows on January 15th (also covered by the MCP, and both of which I have already skied) which could make things interesting if it actually, freakin' well SNOWS for once.  I'd rather not do Mammoth on Saturday on MLK weekend, but it makes no sense to do it before Tahoe if I'm heading south.  If anyone feels strongly I should avoid Mammoth that Saturday, please let me know, and maybe I'll skip Tahoe and just do Las Vegas Ski on Saturday.  And if any Mammoth skiers are going to be there and want to show me around, lemme know. 


No, you will need to have chains onboard per stupid CA road laws...
the road to mammoth is fairly flat and wide (2lane hwy) not a steep mountain trail so unless it's a SERIOUS dump you will be fine.

post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jzamp View Post
 


No, you will need to have chains onboard per stupid CA road laws...
the road to mammoth is fairly flat and wide (2lane hwy) not a steep mountain trail so unless it's a SERIOUS dump you will be fine.


But I only need chains onboard if there are restrictions, right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by SquawBrat View Post
 

The risk of bad driving conditions in Tahoe and Mammoth is overblown. If you can make your vehicle decision within 4 or 5 days of your trip the forecasts will be accurate enough. Although it can be "way big", snow falling in Tahoe and Mammoth is usually intense for a relatively short period of time and then Mother Nature and CalTrans clear the roads very well and very quickly because none of us "Cali's" can drive in the stuff and we think we're bullet proof in our trucks. When you are in Mammoth take at least one day and park at the bottom of Stump Alley/Chair 2 (you can get a lift ticket there) and then at the end of the day you can hang right there at the Mill Cafe.  Very cool old school/Southern California vibe as you watch the sun go down and the SoCal skiers come down the hill.  And btw, you do realize you are signing up for a good amount of driving. And you must absolutely slow down to whatever the posted limits are as you go through the small towns on 395 (Lee Vining, Coleville, etc.). If you want good BBQ there's a good place in Walker (Mountain View BBQ or something like that right on the side of 395 but their hours are a bit sketchy). In Mammoth stop in at the Mammoth Brewery and if you like cooked Japanese food the sukiyaki at Shogun is as good as we've ever found.  


I reserved a car with the promise I can upgrade when I get there.  Worse comes to worst, I buy some chains.  I do realize it's a bit of driving, but it seems to make more sense than flying to Las Vegas, and schlepping back and forth to Mammoth, plus I get an extra day in Tahoe going through Reno, and the Scotsman in me gets to use my MCP again.  I will certainly heed your warnings about slowing down in populated areas; I always do out of respect for the local citizenry, and a deep aversion to speeding tickets.  Thanks for the après-ski tips.  It's snowing like mad right now here in the East, so maybe I can take my snow luck with me. 

post #15 of 16

I used to live out there and yes you only need chains when there are restrictions.  I hope you have plenty of restrictions on your trip.  I love Mammoth.


Edited by crank - 11/26/14 at 12:44pm
post #16 of 16

I echo everything above. I've been in some whiteouts on 395 and never actually been stopped, but yes, M+S are supposed to be the magic characters stamped in the side of the tire to be waved through in 4WD. And yes, the whole chain control thing in CA is way overblown for someone who learned to drive in the midwest, but entirely appropriate given the southern CA masses that head up to Mammoth during a storm. +1 on heeding the speed limits: a friend of mine from West VA met me at Mammoth a couple of years ago and got nailed in the NV stretch from Reno. The Mill at the bottom of Chair 2 is not just great for apres ski: get to the Chair 2 lot early to snag a good parking spot and have breakfast there. You won't regret it. 


Edited by cosmoliu - 11/26/14 at 11:39am
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