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Old 12-01-2012, 11:38 PM
Location: 80904 West siiiiiide!
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This time of year, I'd take I-70. I'll be pulling a trailer with 2 harleys in it in mid december, to Las vegas. If it were just my truck, I'd take I-70, but given the time of year, I'm dropping south to I-40. It only adds an hour or so to my overall trip.
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Old 12-05-2012, 11:16 AM
Location: Sunnyvale, CA
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Originally Posted by CourtneyS View Post
I'm from northern california, near San Francisco. So ideally, I'd like to skip coming up from Southern California/Los Angeles area.
Then you know that the direct route I-80 passes over the Sierras.

Basically if you're that concerned about driving through weather, your best bet is going down into New Mexico, taking I-40 over to whatever freeway or highway you need to catch to Las Vegas, down into Barstow and bypassing the Sierras completely. You don't want to be taking I-80 unless its a very dry year, and you don't want to be taking I-70 through the Rockies because it's 200 miles of mountain driving. You are almost sure to hit icy, snowy spots.

I guess my main concern is just to HOW bad the weather can get. I'm not extremeley experienced driving in the snow, but I know we can handle a little. I was just looking mainly for someone who's driven either 70 or 80 during December who knows what the conditions are really like.
The whole dilemma is that it can be variable from one day to the next. I mean, literally it can be perfectly dry in the mountain valleys and it can be extreme blizzard/icy white-out conditions near the passes, of which there are three main ones on I-70.
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Old 12-05-2012, 12:48 PM
Location: The Valley of the Sun
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Originally Posted by CourtneyS View Post
Hi all! Any ideas? I have snow chains, but not much experience with them.
Putting chains on in 15 degree weather really sucks not to mention the fact that they limit how fast you are able to drive to like 30mph if memory serves. Then you have to stop again and to take them off once you're on dry pavement again. Should buy an AWD or 4WD vehicle as funds allow. You can pick up a used Honda CRV for like 5k that will be super reliable and will get awsome mileage.

Vail pass can be pretty nasty if you're going via I-70. That stretch of I-80 through Park City can be pretty nasty as well. It sounds like your options are limited so all you can really do is go slow and check road conditions ahead of time. Have a safe trip.
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Old 12-05-2012, 03:19 PM
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Wink Colorado to California in winter

Stick with most of the advice given thus far, and you'll probably be fine. With that foremost not to drive in conditions you are uncomfortable with and experienced to handle.

It can be anything out there. Given our current lack of a winter, one might enjoy clear roads all the the way to the coast of California. Only don't count on it, and watch the weather closely, along with road advisories for the states that will be traveled through. Certainly avoid any blizzard conditions, and stop en route for as long as it takes if happening upon same. But even on a largely uneventful drive over such a long distance, certainly the chance of running into some snow somewhere. If with little to no experience driving in snow, hardly the place, out in the middle of nowhere, one wants to learn.

I drove out on I-80 once in December, and aside from some blowing snow in Wyoming the roads were fine. Until Winnemucca, NV, when it began to lightly rain. This turned to flakes of snow by Truckee, CA, coming down heavier beyond there on the approach to Donner Pass. Not far beyond the turnoff to Lake Tahoe the California State Patrol was out checking each and every vehicle, and quite insistent that no one without four wheel drive and winter tires could proceed without putting on chains. As I only had front wheel drive, I pulled off at their designated place to install chains. Someone else I met there turned back at that point, as not having the necessary chains. It was a winter wonderland all the way across that pass, but on an entirely snow packed road would have been problematic for anyone without chains or the necessary AWD. California snow is wetter and slicker than that in Colorado, thus why FWD and even all season tires can manage without chains here. Out there, forget it. And the CSP will insist. So, for this alone, have chains—and know how to use them (as in also having installed them at least once, rubber cinchers and all).

If it comes to it, I-40 is a possibility when I-80 or I-70 may not be. But if less likely, it can get entirely nasty as well. I-80 isn't a bad route, although I-70/US 50 is more direct, scenic, and less traveled (particularly by semi-trucks). But it would be one huge pain if encountering much snow, and aside from Colorado there are any number of smaller passes in eastern Nevada. If that route, one should be comfortable driving one hundred miles and more between small towns with not much of anything between, including services. Perhaps not advisable for the novice.

But nothing between Colorado and California will be for the unprepared in winter. Have a decent vehicle with requisite tires (at minimum four good all-season), chains, winter supplies—and the ability to drive safely for some distance on snow if need be.

Then watch the weather, and do your best to avoid doing so.
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