or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Tahoe, Utah and Colorado Snowchain use
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Tahoe, Utah and Colorado Snowchain use

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm British and my wife and I are travelling from SF to Lake Tahoe (Heavenly), we intend to ski the various resorts around the lake before moving on to Utah (Canyons) and then finally Colorado (Keystone) before a drive to LA and a flight home.  All this is over the course of three weeks.

 

I am used to driving around the French and Austrian Alps with and without snowchains but was wandering about chain use in these states.  Will I need chains? I'm hoping to hire a 4x4 or an SUV but was just looking for some general advice on the road conditions in and around these resorts.  Many thanks Boyd

post #2 of 17

CA and NV have mandatory chain requirements when it is snowing on the high ways for 2 wheel drive cars.  I seem to remember that the Big and Little Cottonwood canyons put chain controls on the mountains roads when it is snowing heavily.  If you see the winter driving habits in the snow in some of these places you will be glad for the controls.  The long down hills in a 'conga line of vehicles' on roads covered with wet snow will make you understand.  I drive in snow all the time in states where chain use is unlawful and the Highway Patrol has heard it all and enforce their laws.

 

Technically even with a 4x4 you are supposed to have chains, but I have never been asked to show the chains at the control stops.  Most rental car companies don't like you to put chains on their vehicles.  OK the skeever way around tire chains is to stop off at a Walmart, buy the correct sized chains or cables and save the reciept.  If you don't use the chains bring them back for a refund.  If you do need the chains you have them.

 

Word to the wise watch the instructional videos on how to put on chains and also read the instructions.  There are people who will put chains on for you for ~$35-50.  Improperly installed chains will beat the day lights out of the car before you can stop.

 

Buy me a beer the next time we meet apres ski..

post #3 of 17

What month are you going and roughly how much time in each location and will you be staying slopeside or commuting each day to ski area?  Personally, I wouldn't bother with chains, especially since you're thinking of hiring a 4x4/SUV.  The only place of moderate likelihood that you'd need them is a 50 mile radius around Heavenly in the event of a big storm and the police declare that they are mandatory.  In that case you could buy from roadside retailers.  95% of the driving you'd do from SF to Keystone to LA will be on major interstate highways at lower elevations with reduced chance of crippling snow trouble.  Chains are rarely, if ever, required around The Canyons and Keystone. (Locals please correct me if wrong.)

 

Sounds like a great trip.

post #4 of 17

^Good advice from Talisman.  For that kind of trip, I think it would be wise to have a vehicle with 4WD or AWD & at least All Season tires.  Snow tires are probably not necessary, but the tires need to have an M+S rating to get through chain control.  I have driven most of the route you are taking in winter, & never needed chains, but was always glad to have AWD & good tires.  If it is storming, there are quite a few passes that you may encounter chain controls, so you better have chains in the car.  I know that in CA it is required that you have them in the vehicle.

 

If there are only 2 of you, it may be worth checking into renting a Subaru model.  We rented an AWD Ford Taurus a few years ago in British Columbia & it worked out great for the drive over Rogers Pass with decent gas mileage & room for all out gear inside.

 

The worst you will encounter will be Echo Summit on highway 50 going into South Lake Tahoe.  There are also frequent chain controls on the hwys. 89 & 88 to Kirkwood, also around the west shore of Tahoe on hwy. 89.  There are a few mountain passes on hwy. 80 to Utah, but they are usually not too bad.  Frequent chain controls in the Cottonwood canyons, & occasionally on hwy. 80 to Park City.  From Utah to CO, there are a few more depending on your route & where you want to ski there.

 

This is a great road trip, especially if you can follow a storm from Tahoe to Utah to Colorado.

Have a great time!

 

JF

post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone for all the great info!  

 

Jamesj we are due to arrive in Tahoe on 1 December we are there for 6 nights and had wanted to ski Squaw, Sierra and Kirkwood as well as Heavenly.  Onto the Canyons for another 6 nights, taking in Park City, Snowbird and then Colorado for 6, Las Vegas for 3 (cheesy I know but my wife loves the place) and then LAX.  I was a little worried about snow that early in the season but we wanted to avoid the holidays and this was the only workable time away from my job.  I'll just keep my fingers crossed.

 

I've booked a 4wd SUV so hopefully should be OK.  Its's mid size Ford Escape or similar but they assure me it will be 4WD.

 

Many thanks, Boyd

post #6 of 17

This might be a bit too late.

 

But wouldn't it be less driving if you fly to Denver and then do the drive from east to west (still end up in LA)?

post #7 of 17

I have to say if your coming this far for that long a trip, it's really not smart to start as early as Dec. 1.  The 3 resorts you mention, Heavenly, Canyons, and Keystone, are all low snowfall areas within their regions.  It will be near miraculous to find any of those 3 in full operation in that time frame, and less than half open is quite likely.  Thankfully, in all 3 cases you are within day commute range to areas that get more snow.  Do not lock yourself into lift tickets in advance!   And frankly, what you really need to do is move the whole trip into January after the holidays.  Even April is a better bet than December

 

If the job precludes January-April, you should consider basing with better access to likely snow.  That means in Salt Lake City, skiing Alta/Snowbird/Brighton/Solitude.  All 3 Park City areas rate to be less than half open.  In Colorado you should go to Steamboat/Winter Park (same road into Denver afterwards) or Vail/Beaver Creek, not Summit County.  You might as well stick with South Shore in Tahoe, since Kirkwood is the likely best shot for skiing, and if your wife likes Vegas she'll like South Shore.  Take your North Shore day at Alpine Meadows instead of Squaw unless the base depths are at last 6 feet.

 

I agree that logistics favor east to west.  From Tahoe you can come down to Mammoth (sometimes better early snow) and through Death Valley to Las Vegas.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 10/5/10 at 2:58pm
post #8 of 17

That time of year I would not even book the lodging in advance.  Since you will have a car I would look at the snow and travel accordingly.  The resorts will not be full in early December so you should be able to get some good deals on lodging.

post #9 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Talisman View Post

OK the skeever way around tire chains is to stop off at a Walmart, buy the correct sized chains or cables and save the reciept.  If you don't use the chains bring them back for a refund.  If you do need the chains you have them.


I believe they've caught on to this trick and no longer allow returns of chains.

 

Regardless, in California, I've never been required to put chains on a 4WD/AWD with M+S rated or true snow tires.  Technically, the categories are R1 (snow tires or chains), R2 (snows and AWD/4WD or chains) and R3 (chains no matter what), but the roads almost invariably close due to accidents before R3 can be put into effect.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

[Truth]


Early December in Tahoe is usually White Ribbon of Death time.

 

Also, if you're at all concerned about weather, I would stick to one side of the lake, north or south.  I believe that 89 around the west side of the lake will likely be closed, so your only option will be 28 down the east side or 395 via Reno.  It's unlikely to be worth the effort.

post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hi All, Thank you for your concerns but I'm afraid that early December was the only workable time away from my job.  Tony Croker, thanks for the heads up and advice, In respect of passes its a bit late I'm afraid both my wife and I purchased Epic seasons passes.  Mainly as we intend to return in April for 7-10 days to one of the five resorts covered by this pass. It made sound economic sense at the time but we don't mind having to purchase additional passes if it means better snow.  Just a point on this matter, with respect and not wishing to group everybody collectively, your standards and expectations in the US in terms of ski area and crowds are much higher than ours in Europe, in my opinion.  I have skied Heavenly before, around three years ago (4 days at xmas) and I was surprised as to how polite people were in the queues firstly and how people were moaning about how busy the lines were when in European terms the place was empty.  Is there a little of this high standard mentality going on with your assessment of snow quality in early December?  Remember, I've skied muddy tracks in low resorts in Austria.

 

Tony I take your and at_nyc point about east to west but I'm flying BA/Quantas and a Denver start would have doubled the price of the flights.  Anyway, I've done plenty of driving in the US, you've got a great road network and the scenery is poles apart from Europe.  

 

TheDad thanks for your local perspective on Tahoe. just how wide it that ribbon of death? O well, I'll just keep my fingers crossed for some good snowfalls so at least they can get a good base down.  It looks like the tree skiing may be out of the equation!!

 

Finally, does anybody know and good sites that show historic resort data (lifts/ runs open etc...)  

 

Again, many thanks for you help in these issues.  Boyd

post #11 of 17

The width of the WRODs varies among resorts and seasons.  If we get a good cold snap, they'll be able to make snow for a base, and hopefully, some natural will top it off.  But it's a crapshoot.

post #12 of 17

 

Quote:
 Is there a little of this high standard mentality going on with your assessment of snow quality in early December?

Not really.  Check out the percents of terrain open Dec. 1 that I track each season. Last year was particularly grim:

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/120109.htm Most places under 10% open.

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/120108.htm Alta at 66% was the only place on your route over 20% open.

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/113007.htm Another one with places closed or under 10%. FYI it started dumping like crazy in mid-December and turned out to be one of our greatest overall seasons.

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/113006.htm Alta and Loveland 80+% open.  Next highest were Brighton and Copper at 48%.  Everyone else 1/4 or less open.

 

Dec. 15:

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/121609.htm  Tahoe just over half open, Utah just under half, Colorado about 1/3 open.

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/121508.htm  Mammoth 40%, Tahoe under 10%, Cottonwoods 3/4 open, Park City under 20%, Colorado 2/3 open.

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/121607.htm  Tahoe under 20%, Cottonwoods 3/4 open, Park City 40%, Colorado  80+%

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/121506.htm  Tahoe under 15%, Cottonwoods 90%, Park City 60%, Colorado 80+%

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/121505.htm  Tahoe 30-50%, Cottonwoods 95%, Park City 85%, Colorado 90+%

http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/121904.htm  Tahoe 90+%, Utah 90+%, Colorado about 2/3 open.

 

My Season Progress Reports can be found here http://webpages.charter.net/tcrocker818/snowrpts.htm by clicking through to the Season Analysis page for a specific season, then choosing a Progress Report done roughly twice a month.  I have them going back to 1996-97 but with less detail than those listed above.

 

We get these early season questions every year.  Given the length of this trip and its timing, I'm too tempted to lay out the gory evidence in explicit detail to deter future such decisions.  The lodging choices of Heavenly, Canyons (worst of the Park City group for snow) and Keystone (lowest natural snowfall of a destination resort in the entire state) are spectacularly unwise for early December.

Quote:
Mainly as we intend to return in April for 7-10 days to one of the five resorts covered by this pass

Do yourself a favor and make the longer trip in April instead of December.  Chop the front end off the December trip and just go to Colorado around Dec. 15 with your Epic Pass.   Given the overall cost of a 3-week trip it's well worth paying the airline change fee to move the long trip to April.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 10/6/10 at 2:54pm
post #13 of 17

 

Quote:
Tony I take your and at_nyc point about east to west but I'm flying BA/Quantas and a Denver start would have doubled the price of the flights.  Anyway, I've done plenty of driving in the US, you've got a great road network and the scenery is poles apart from Europe.  

 

Unless you really want to drive for the sake of driving, it may work out more economical to fly from SF to Denver and back instead of hiring a car for the journey (that is, if you re-consider your plan to ski Canyons in early December).

 

Alternatively, fly from SF to Denver and hire a car to drive west from there. That would at least put you at the highest region (CO) at the earliest & least snow-sure days of your holiday, Tahoe is a "late season" snow mecca. But early December isn't it's best time (it might RAIN!). Perhaps you should think about devoting your April trip to Tahoe and focus this trip on Colorado and Utah?

post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the swift responses as always.  Tony thanks for the comprehensive information and telling it like it is,  I'd much rather have the hard facts.  Your reports are excellent, I've bookmarked the link and will await the start of your 2010-11 analysis.  Lets hope its happy reading.

 

My wife and I have have had a rethink and will concentrate this trip to Utah and Colorado.  at_nyc we are taking your suggestion and are to fly from SF to Denver, source a car and travel to Keytone onto Salt Lake and Vegas and LA.  We have the car and will commute to the better resorts on a daily basis, if all the resorts are bad we'll find something to do, we are tourists after all. We are tried into our accommodation in Keystone but we have changed the dates and intend to stay Salt Lake City and pick our Utah ski resorts on a day by day basis.  We've booked to come back to Heavenly mid March for 10days, we were considering Les Arcs, France in March but this way we can utilise our Epic passes.  

 

Many Thanks, Boyd

post #15 of 17

I was rather harsh in my comments in an effort to get you to modify what was likely to be a very disappointing itinerary.  I like to see a lot of data to get a true fix on questions like this, and I only have that for Mammoth:

 

42-Year Data
For Dec. 1
36% of the time 20% or less of the mountain is open
31% of the time 25-40% of the mountain is open
19% of the time 50-80% of the mountain is open
14% of the time 90+% of the mountain is open
For Dec. 15:
17% of the time 20% or less of the mountain is open
21% of the time 25-40% of the mountain is open
24% of the time 50-80% of the mountain is open
38% of the time 90+% of the mountain is open
For Jan. 1:
10% of the time 20% or less of the mountain is open
7% of the time 25-40% of the mountain is open
16% of the time 50-80% of the mountain is open
67% of the time 90+% of the mountain is open
For Jan. 15:
5% of the time 20% or less of the mountain is open
7% of the time 25-40% of the mountain is open
9% of the time 50-80% of the mountain is open
79% of the time 90+% of the mountain is open
For Feb. 1:
5% of the time 20% or less of the mountain is open
5% of the time 25-40% of the mountain is open
5% of the time 50-80% of the mountain is open
85% of the time 90+% of the mountain is open

 

Mammoth is one of the best Sierra areas for early season due its high Main Lodge elevation of 8,900, so any snow that falls tends to stick around.  I believe the results for Kirkwood would be comparable as it's also fairly high and gets more snow than Mammoth.  Heavenly's stats would be considerably worse.

 

Quote:
we are tourists after all.

 

I applaud you for modifying your plans, and you should plan this trip with other tourism in mind.  Maybe spend some time in San Francisco.  There are a lot of national parks in southern Utah plus the Grand Canyon that you could visit driving between Denver/Salt Lake and Vegas.  Some of the national parks are closed in December, so check that out first. 


Edited by Tony Crocker - 10/7/10 at 4:52pm
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 

thanks again for your help on this Tony.  We've busy planning plenty of contingency plans in case their is little to no snow at all.  Either way I'm sure we'll have a great time. Both me and my wife have skied some pretty ropey late season conditions in Austria and France so we should be just fine.  

 

Again thanks for all the great info.  I probably can't repay the favour but if you ever want a heads up on the Savoie region of the French Alps or The Tirol and The Salzburger Land in Austria, I've skied these regions quite extensively over the years.  Kind Regards Boyd   

post #17 of 17

You should be planning now the most interesting non-ski activities for the first week at least if you're still arriving Dec. 1.  Maybe go to Vegas then.  By your last week the odds should be somewhat in your favor in the Cottonwoods or Vail/Beaver Creek.  Try to be flexible so you can go to either SLC or Colorado in the middle week if one has much more snow than the other.  It's slow tourist season, so you'll have no problem scoring lodging at the last minute.

Quote:
We've booked to come back to Heavenly mid March for 10days

This and the earlier April comment lead me to believe that there is more schedule flexibility that implied by the original post.   So I don't see why the December trip can't be shortened and start at least a week later than Dec. 1.  Perhaps I've not read your second post above clearly and you have already done that.   You should enjoy mid-March in the Sierra.  Don't confine yourself to Heavenly, and particularly avoid it on weekends.

 

Europe is the weak spot in my own experience, with only 11 out of 967 days and 8 out 150 areas skied.  I'm recently retired and plan to improve that record.  Not sure it will happen this season, but I hope for an annual trip to the Alps starting in 2012.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Resorts, Conditions & Travel
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Tahoe, Utah and Colorado Snowchain use