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Snow and chains - East vs. West

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Growing up skiing in Vermont, my family always had a 2 wheel and never had a problem driving up in the mountains to go skiing, even in a big dump. Since moving to N. Ca, I have always wondered how come we use chains here, but not back East. Our house was at the top of a huge, steep hill and no one ever had problems. Here, driving up 80 in a storm is a joke! Sometimes they make you put on chains when the road is just wet, not even snowy (thus I have a 4wd now)

Why is this so?
post #2 of 18
The road to Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island is a place where you have to have chains in your car or they won't let you on the road. The reason there is that they can get a sudden snow storm that dumps a lot of snow in a short time. I suspect the reasoning is the same in northern CA, the risk that the roads will change quickly from the joke that you experienced to snow over-the-axles.
post #3 of 18
CA is the only western state (that I know of) that enforces chain laws so vigorously. Perhaps with so many urban drivers unfamiliar with winter driving and flocking to Tahoe & the SoCal mountains, Caltrans feels it is necessary to keep traffic flowing. Also, CA suffers from far more black ice than the other western states due to more freeze thaw cycles. I now live in UT (after growing up in CA) and don't even own chains.

Powdr
post #4 of 18
Chain restrictions are primarily a traffic control measure. Even with chain restrictions, there are lots of accidents and near misses on the passes during storms. Many California drivers appear as though they have no experience or common sense. In other states, if you or your car cannot cope with conditions, you are on your own to stay home, learn the lessons and modify your driving, or failing that, pick up the pieces. In California, the government decides where and when you need to be equipped with traction devices or 4X4. Bad driving is of such epic proportions here, that government must assume we (collectively) are incapable of navigating snowy roads without their mandate to apply chains. Our chain restrictions are an earned reward or government excess...You decide.

If chain laws were not enforced, I'm certain the roadways would quickly become littered with cars and drivers not only incapable of traction and handling, but causing massive collateral damage and closing down the highway. Sad but true. Where else in the world must you assume the majority of citizens lack enough common sense to avoid collisions, in the absense of government intervention. Encore
post #5 of 18
Living up here it is absolutely exasperating to see and hear what folks' expectations are with regard to the capabilities of their vehicles. Experience is a far greater influence than 4wd or snow tires when driving in marginal, let alone dangerous, driving conditions. Sadly everyone in their 4wd (or otherwise) is a 'better than average' driver. Meanwhile our government is tasked with protecting us. Chain control is a tool they have available. They damn well should use it. Extensively.
post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider
Chain restrictions are primarily a traffic control measure. Even with chain restrictions, there are lots of accidents and near misses on the passes during storms. Many California drivers appear as though they have no experience or common sense.
And almost no cars in CA use snow tires, with many not even equipped with all-season tires. In the East, everyone faces snow whether going to the mountains or not, so tires need to be somewhat capable.
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Beekeeper
And almost no cars in CA use snow tires, with many not even equipped with all-season tires. In the East, everyone faces snow whether going to the mountains or not, so tires need to be somewhat capable.
Good point. Mom did have snows in the winter. Hadn't thought about that.
post #8 of 18
I bet it has a lot to do with the type of snow that falls in California. An inch of heavy wet snow is like frosting on the roads, and it sticks. Whereas in Colorado or Utah, often the snow is much lighter and will blow right off the road. Also, the freeze thaw cycle was mentioned, it seems to me snow sticks to a warmer road better than one that is frozen solid.
post #9 of 18
No excuses. It's the driving. 12 car collision today causing I-80 to shut down. Driving too fast for the conditions was the cause. It was an Audi that plowed into the back of someone. I guess that the awd system didn't brake fast enough
post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiMinker
Growing up skiing in Vermont, my family always had a 2 wheel and never had a problem driving up in the mountains to go skiing, even in a big dump. Since moving to N. Ca, I have always wondered how come we use chains here, but not back East. Our house was at the top of a huge, steep hill and no one ever had problems. Here, driving up 80 in a storm is a joke! Sometimes they make you put on chains when the road is just wet, not even snowy (thus I have a 4wd now)

Why is this so?
Even as a truck driver now, when the word goes out that the chain law is in place yet the roads are wet all the way over Donner, we wonder this too. And then we have to hang iron on bare roads. No wonder that road is so tore up.
If Caltrans sees more than 3 flakes fall in a row, here come the chain law.
Yes other western states do enforce the the chain rule, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.No they don't have check points, but if the police sees you with out chains, they pull you over, give you a ticket, then tell you to put chains on.
At least Caltrans has the chain monkeys to put your chains on for you, if you have no idea how to.$20.00 for 4 wheelers, $50.00 for semis.
Thankfully i work for a company that says if you have to chain, you shut it down.
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steamboat
I bet it has a lot to do with the type of snow that falls in California. An inch of heavy wet snow is like frosting on the roads, and it sticks. Whereas in Colorado or Utah, often the snow is much lighter and will blow right off the road. Also, the freeze thaw cycle was mentioned, it seems to me snow sticks to a warmer road better than one that is frozen solid.
Even if the snow doesn't blow off the road in Colorado (and I assume Utah), it's normally so much drier that it's more like sand than something slick and icy. I learned that during the 8 years I lived in Washington, DC, where I initially found it somewhat hilarious when the city would shut down on the FORECAST of snow. But I did learn that the snow (and similar frozen precipitation) was very different from that with which I was familiar. Much wetter, much slicker, much more dangerous.

And ice storms!! I remember one in Wash in about 1993? I swear there was 6 inches of solid ice on everything. I lived about a mile from work at the time, and thought, Well, even if I can't drive, I can walk. I came out of my apartment, and it was a smooth, thick sheet of ice from my door all the way across the street to the apartment door on the other side. It was weird. I tried to walk to work, which was up a hill, and was reduced to CRAWLING. After a block, I decided I didn't like my job enough to CRAWL to work, so I turned around, sat on my butt, and slid home.
post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiMinker
Growing up skiing in Vermont, my family always had a 2 wheel and never had a problem driving up in the mountains to go skiing, even in a big dump. Since moving to N. Ca, I have always wondered how come we use chains here, but not back East. Our house was at the top of a huge, steep hill and no one ever had problems. Here, driving up 80 in a storm is a joke! Sometimes they make you put on chains when the road is just wet, not even snowy (thus I have a 4wd now)

Why is this so?
There aren't interstates over mountain passes in the east. Nobody cares if you can get up your driveway or not. The problem is curvey major roads with heavy traffic going over significant altitude changes into volitile weather. In western passes, it's relatively easy for people to get themselves into trouble. The weather changes so fast as you climb 2000 feet in a few dozen miles. Once things turn bad, it doesn't take many unprepared (or just unlucky) people to put a major kink in the lives and travel plans of others.

Getting stuck in a 20 mile backup on top of a windy pass in blizzard conditions kind of sucks. Especially if your girlfriend polished off the last of her Big Gulp shortly after you passed the "Next rest stop: 327 miles" sign.
post #13 of 18
I lived in Oregon for a while and driving over Hood pass I saw storms that just don't happen in the east as far as visibility and accumulation is concerned. As far as the east here is what happens when we get a snowstorm. In Vermont noone really cares, its part of life deal with it, dont get snow tires at your own peril. However people coming up from the big cities in their SUV's with all season radials tend to drive way to fast and slide off the road. In a storm the pattern is this, I drive down the interstate for something in town, there are like 5 or 6 SUV's that have gone of the road. When I go back home those are gone because they have been towed out and a whole slew of new ones have taken their place.
post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfonse
I lived in Oregon for a while and driving over Hood pass I saw storms that just don't happen in the east as far as visibility and accumulation is concerned. As far as the east here is what happens when we get a snowstorm. In Vermont noone really cares, its part of life deal with it, dont get snow tires at your own peril. However people coming up from the big cities in their SUV's with all season radials tend to drive way to fast and slide off the road. In a storm the pattern is this, I drive down the interstate for something in town, there are like 5 or 6 SUV's that have gone of the road. When I go back home those are gone because they have been towed out and a whole slew of new ones have taken their place.
It's amazing how badly people can drive when they think 4wd will save them. A couple of months ago in a pretty good snow, I was on a parking shuttle and the guy in front of me was asking the driver if he knew how to put his vehicle into 4wd mode (?!). And he was saying how happy and safe he felt having 4wd... as if 4wd was going to keep him from sliding off the ice covered mountain access road. Half of these people would be safer with rwd and worn down all-season tires... then they'd at least be scared enough to pay attention.
post #15 of 18
Yesterday after leaving Kirkwood was a day truely worthy of chains. A heavy snow was falling causing whiteout conditions. I was 3-cars behind a plow, and all I could see was the yellow beacon. Snow was fracturing and sloughing off the hillsides. There was 6-8 inches in the oncoming lane, and we passed plows clearing that direction.

One of the factors that affects traffic during chain restrictions on wet roads, is many cars experience blown tires. Most passenger car tires are not designed for chain use.
post #16 of 18
It's not for the ice. It's not the type of snow. It's how suddenly you can end up with a foot of snow on the road. It's very frustrating to be stuck in traffic because someone elses car can't move.
post #17 of 18
White-outs and slippery roads are a problem in the east. http://www.canada.com/montrealgazett...a9c465&k=83849
post #18 of 18
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Snow and chains - East vs. West