Driving from Vancouver to Kamloops during the winter
Replies: 20 - Last Post: Dec 20, 2012 9:58 AM Last Post By: barsoom
Dec 8, 2012 11:44 PM
We are renting a car and a friend sugested an SUV, but they are quite expensive. Is it really necessary? A full-size with 5 people in it would be heavy enough to pass the snow? Is it too dangerous?
Only one of our drivers has experience in the snow and he is quite worried. Any advices are welcome.
Dec 9, 2012 5:44 AM
1Because I am anal about these things...driving from Vancouver to Kamloops does not put you anywhere near the Rockies. They are much further east. In fact, you won't be passing over any major mountain ranges on your trip.
You do not need an SUV; hundreds of families will be making the same trip in all sorts of cars. However, an SUV might make you less paranoid and ease some of your worries. On the other hand, an SUV can also lure you into a false sense of security, where you may take risks that you shouldn't. Anyway, they're pretty good about clearing the highways...just go slow if you suspect some icy conditions...pull over to the side of the road if it starts snowing so much that your visibility is impaired. Good luck!
Dec 9, 2012 7:26 AM
Dec 9, 2012 12:04 PM
Dec 9, 2012 12:49 PM
4As mentioned, look at a map please. Your route is a very long way from the Rockies. As you leave Vancouver you will go through some mountains but nowhere near the height of the passes in the Rockies.
People travel these roads all the time. That said, the Coquihalla can be a concern. There have already been quite a few big accidents on it this year. Watch the road reports and take it easy. Currently conditions are compact snow and slippery. Go to http://www.drivebc.ca for updates.
Make sure your rental has good snow tires and carry chains. Know how to put the chains on - practice before you go. It is illegal to drive past Hope with "all seasons" which is probably what you will be given on a rental in Vancouver so you may need to buy the chains yourself - about $65-80.
In regard to the 4WD. The only thing the 4WD will help you with is getting out of a stuck situation. If you are driving on highways you don't usually get stuck as they are pretty good about clearing the roads. Even if there is quite a bit of snow you can usually manage quite well in a front wheel 2WD - when you are climbing a hill just keep your progress steady - in a lower gear. My son has a front wheel 2wd Toyota and drive the Coq several times a month all year long. He has never been stuck or not made the hills.
The real danger is ice and for that you need good snowtires - they are softer and behave better on ice. Ice is not always visible - most dangerous when it is not because people drive much too fast when they think the roads are clear. To be honest I'm much more nervous on a clear black road than I am when I can see the snow/ice.
If this is not going to be fun for you, perhaps you should all take a bus. Then you can relax and have a party while you travel. Five people in one car is going to be very tight - and don't forget that trunk space for five ....probably not enough room if you are each bringing a full size suitcase.
If you do, make sure you take some emergency winter supplies with you - warm blankets/sleeping bags, water, food, shovel, etc. If there are any kind of delays on the road you will have to sit there for quite a while and it will get very cold.
Dec 9, 2012 1:41 PM
Dec 9, 2012 5:05 PM
6Thank you everyone, all this information is very helpful. I am thinking about taking the bus. How is public transportation in Kamloops? Can we get to the attractions without a car or do we need to rent one once we get there?
Dec 9, 2012 5:34 PM
Dec 9, 2012 7:17 PM
Dec 9, 2012 10:53 PM
9The problem with rental cars is that it is quite uncommon for them to come with winter tires (an SUV would only be of benefit if it has 4 wheel drive). The coquihalla is in fact 2-3 lanes all the way through, but it can get down to a single lane while they work to dig out from a big storm or avalanche. It is a higher elevation road than the trans-Canada, so it tends to get more snow and more often. The trans-Canada takes longer, and is more narrow and windy but the conditions may be better. Visit http://www.drivebc.ca/ before you leave Vancouver for up to date highway conditions.
I have never used chains, and I have barely ever seen anyone except the big trucks using them. Driving in winter takes a little getting used to. Drive a bit slower, and avoid sudden stopping or turning as it may send you into a skid. If you find yourself skidding use the gas to get yourself out of it, the brakes will make things worse. Also, since it is most likely a newer car that you will be renting it comes with anti-lock brakes. If you do need to stop in a hurry, push down hard on them and hold your foot down. As the name suggests, the car will prevent the brakes from locking and it is the most efficient way to stop. And make sure you have plenty of windshield washer fluid, you go through a lot more of it in the winter.
Not sure where you plan to go in Kamloops, but the bus routes and schedules are here: http://www.transitbc.com/regions/kam/. The bus system is ok, but they run less frequently in the evening and on Sundays. Check the schedule so you don't end up having to wait too long. If you are looking to go up to Sun Peaks they have a bus that takes people up there from town. It is run by the ski hill, not public transit, so check on the sun peaks website.
Edited by: Andreas_at_LP
Dec 10, 2012 8:39 PM
10As the previous comment mentioned, rental cars in B.C. aren't usually provided with snow tires (or chains for that matter). They will typically have "all season tires" which are not suitable for driving on snow or ice. I've rented many cars and this has always been the case.
As the others have stated, you won't be going anywhere near the Rockies as they're further east past Revelstoke. You will however be travelling on the Coquihalla, which has some has some high mountain areas which can be treacherous in the winter. I'd suggest checking the Drive B.C. website for current highway conditions prior to leaving Vancouver. When you reach Merritt, you'll continue straight to Kamloops rather than turning onto the Okanagan Connector.
If you want to get some idea of the conditions on the Coquihalla can be like, have a look at Highway Thru Hell on Discovery Channel.
As previous replies stated, it would be a good idea to keep your speed down, don't accelerate or decelerate suddenly or make quick turns. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security as there could be black ice. I've been driving in Canadian winters for about 45 years, so have a good idea on the best practices.
Is there a particular reason you chose Kamloops at this time of year? Aside from Sun Peaks, the opportunities for sightseeing are probably going to be a bit "limited". You might also have a look at the Okanagan as there are lots of attractions there and also some great ski hills.
If you're nervous about driving the Coqhuihalla, you might be more comfortable taking the Bus or a flight and then just rent a car for driving locally. There are lots of flights from Vancouver to Kelowna and also some to Kamloops.
Dec 13, 2012 1:50 PM
Dec 13, 2012 2:54 PM
Dec 13, 2012 9:23 PM
13It was suggested that the driver carry chains because a car rented in Vancouver would be equipped with all-seasons, not snow tires. From Oct 1 to April 30, vehicles traveling past Hope are required to have either snow tires or chains. http://www.th.gov.bc.ca/SeasonalDriving/winter_chains.html
No, one does not see people driving around lower mainland highways with chains on. However, upcountry it is not uncommon to see people chaining up at critical junctures so they can comfortably make some of the inclines such as those on the Coq. Two days ago, son, traveling from Sask to Vancr came down the Coq with studded snows and reported considerable slipping and sliding over the steepest parts. There have already been several serious accidents on the Coq and it is not even end of the year - winter has not officially begun. When I travel around NA from Dec to March I keep a set of chains in the trunk. Cheap insurance.
In my post I also recommended that if OP was going to rent a car with all-seasons and buy some chains they take the time to practice putting them on. Today's chains are very easy to put on - even I, a 61 year old grannie can do it. But at the side of the road, in the middle of a blizzard is not the time to be trying to read the instructions and figure it out.
However, sonds like the OP is not very experienced with winter conditions and will be happier with the bus. Good choice for him.
Dec 14, 2012 8:12 AM
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