winter road conditions CO/WY/UT
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Dec 1, 2012 9:25 PM Last Post By: Dutch_Uncle
Nov 26, 2012 3:53 PM
winter road conditions CO/WY/UT3 of us going on a skiing trip this winter between 10dec and 4jan. Starting Denver and hoping to visit some Colorado resorts, then up to Jackson Hole and probably Salt Lake city and back to Denver (exact plan being flexible).
Anyway I've booked a full size car from Alamo (chevy impala or similar). Not sure whether I should maybe change that to a 4wd. I'm not a stranger to winter driving but do the interstates get snowed out badly? Or do they get snowploughs through pretty smartly. Do rentals come with winter tyres? Should I maybe buy some cheap chains and keep 'em in the boot? (I'm not paying $15 a day from alamo!)
Nov 26, 2012 4:23 PM
1You will be fine on interstates - they will most likely be bone dry. Just watch the weather, especially for Interstate 70 through the Colorado rockies. Don't go in the middle of big, or windy storm. Getting to and from Jackson Hole requires driving on more secondary highways, so watch the weather even closer for your drive in and out of there.
Remember, 4WD drive is more helpful for getting out of parking spots and up steep unplowed driveways etc. after a big snow storm than they are for cruising down the highway. Four wheel drives don't stop any better, which is your main problem on a snow covered freeway.
Nov 26, 2012 6:19 PM
2Read FAQ 238.
Note: Rental companies may prohibit the use of tire chains on their vehicles. Read the fine print.
Nov 27, 2012 10:15 AM
3I made a run from Salt Lake City to Denver once, and it was a gripper. I had white-out conditions about 30 miles so bad the highway patroll closed the interstate, and I had to sleep in my car. Fortunately for me I had my emergency kit with me, sleeping bag, food, etc. One warning, occasionally a car will skid off the road and get snowed over. The occupants are later found dead from carbon monoxide poisioning, from keeping the windows closed and then the snow seals you up and you run out of oxygen. It happens.
A 4X4 does not help on ice, it can bite you because you think you have more control. YOU DON'T! A front wheel drive is better in snow than rear wheeled cars.
The interstates get good snowplow action, but they can be slow especially if it is still snowing. I think the maintenance dept has a 4 inch maximum snow depth requirement for plowing.
Most likely you will be fine, just keep my little warning in the back of your head.
Nov 27, 2012 10:21 AM
4The drive from SLC to Jackson, WY is a bitch of a drive in the winter, but I've done it in a Toyota Corolla. I'm a good driver and I don't take too many risks and I know to gear down and take it slow.
In Jackson, they don't fully plow the streets and you drive on snow pack and ice a lot. Once you get up to the ski resorts they plow more thoroughly, but be prepared for the conditions I described in town.
I did not have AWD. The only real problem we had was in Teton Nat'l Park where we got stuck in deep fresh powder. AWD wouldn't have helped much, but more clearance would have plus chains. We were helped out by the UPS man and a nice man with a pickup.
Nov 27, 2012 2:25 PM
5As long as you aren't driving at 2:30 am in the middle of a blizzard on some back road, you will be perfectly fine.
Lots of overly cautious posters so far. You said you aren't foreign to driving in snow. Sometimes it may be slow-going and your knuckles may be white, but you can get through it without a scratch like a majority of people do.
Nov 27, 2012 3:12 PM
6You ever put on chains laying on your back in the snow?
Taint easy but there is a technique to it.
Tire store with many locations in the mountain west is Les Schwab.
They will sell you the proper chains and if you return them unused, they will refund.
Check to confirm they still offer this.
Sometimes chains pull loose and damage the wheel wells or fenders, so rental companies forbid them.
Up to you if you want to take the chance.
They help on ice, provided you drive slowly, but few people use them in snow country.
Three people traveling ski country with all of your gear, you might be more comfortable and feel safer paying extra for a bigger 4WD vehicle. I would. Ask about ski rack on top unless you plan to rent skis at each stop.
Nov 27, 2012 4:13 PM
7I've lived where there's guaranteed deep snow 7 months of the year, and anyone who says 4WD doesn't make a difference is dead wrong. While nothing will save you on glare ice or black ice except studded snow tires, the difference between rear-wheel drive and 4WD is astronomical in snow. Definitely, front-wheel drive is a huge improvement over rear wheel because placing the weight over the wheels that are driving and steering drastically improves traction and control. However, in heavy snow, front-wheel or all-wheel drive cars with low ground clearance are still toast, and 4WD is your best option.
Another advantage of a good 4WD is low range. When you're descending a hill with poor traction where hitting the brakes can mean loss of control, there's nothing finer than low gear in low range to walk you slowly through the situation. A good 4x4 will keep going unless the snow is so deep and heavy that you high-center.
A good compromise vehicle is a mid-sized SUV like a Nissan Rogue. It has AWD, better ground clearance than a sedan, and an excellent low gear with engine-assisted braking, but it gets good mileage, and handles more like a sedan. They're usually substantially cheaper than a full-sized SUV, but will get you through anything you're likely to encounter (except glare or black ice).
Nov 28, 2012 9:59 AM
Nov 28, 2012 1:07 PM
9I thought as much - so I'll just stick with the standard rental.
As long as I can make reasonable speed for the long drives on the highways I don't mind a bit of slippy slidey slow driving on the back roads.
I totally agree with Karlo on the benefits of 4wd though - I drive a 4wd station wagon back home and it does help massively on braking too - makes it a lot harder to accidently lock the wheels and loose steering control (and ABS systems get confused by ice and do more harm then good!).
Alamo wants $400 for the use of a roof rack! Not thanks Alamo I'll buy one for a quarter of that and if its any good I might even take it home with me (hopefully I can fit it without them ever noticing it was there).
Nov 28, 2012 11:25 PM
10untracked, you definitely chose a fitting handle. As stopster noted, 4WD "does help massively on braking too". Braking is a major component of "stopping better". The fact that you won't get huge benefit at freeway speeds doesn't mean you won't get huge benefit in situations that the OP and I describe, and which somebody going up and down a ski hill will very likely to encounter.
Your own advice is pretty profound, though! LOL.
stopster, having just spent 6 weeks in three different rental midsized SUV's, I can't emphasize enough how little you sacrifice in mileage, comfort, and handling, for that extra roominess, clearance and traction.
Nov 29, 2012 4:58 PM
Nov 29, 2012 6:22 PM
12Yes MJ I'm a cheap bastard alright. Can't take 4 weeks off work to go skiing without cutting corners somewhere. So then why did I waste my time posting a question on here?
Well I've driven in England where it doesn't snow much but when it does all hell breaks loose because they don't have the facilities to clear it.
I've driven in New Zealand where they refuse to salt the road because people don't want their cars corroding prematurely.
I've driven in India where the road just gets left to its on devices til next summer.
I've also driven in Germany and Austria where they clear the road just as fast as the snow falls.
I haven't driven in the USA but from what everyone else has said it sounds like you keep the main roads clear.
And sound advice on the snow chains thanks.
Nov 30, 2012 12:48 PM
Dec 1, 2012 9:25 PM
14Remember, when you get stuck with 4WD you are most sincerely stuck. That "4" in 4WD has enticed many drivers to go too far.
Do put together a blizzard kit: food, water, containers for human waste, and winter footgear and clothing. The school solution is to stick with the stuck vehicle rather than trying to walk to a light on the horizon.
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