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Old 01-15-2010, 10:26 PM
 
147 posts, read 217,439 times
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If you take I-70 through Colorado, you need to carry tire chains with you and be ready to use them. You will be at an elevation of 11,000 feet at the Eisenhower tunnel. I believe Colorado is one of several western states that does require tire chains at times. I believe Utah may require them at times as well and I know every once in a great while they're needed on I-15 between Baker and Primm (yeah I know-hard to believe but the highway does rise to an elevation of almost 4,800 ft). I have bought chains at Autozone before and been able to return them if they're unused and if you have the receipt.
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Old 01-15-2010, 10:31 PM
 
Location: Greeley, Colorado
631 posts, read 1,358,676 times
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Weather can change at any time. Either way it looks like you'll encounter snow. Having been on I-70 during the good, bad and ugly, I'd say that dropping farther south to 40 would be your best bet, however from what I've heard/read 40 can also be one b*tchin highway as well. If you drive safely and the roads aren't shut down then you should do just fine either way you go.
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Old 01-15-2010, 10:42 PM
 
Location: Texas
14,078 posts, read 17,037,864 times
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I-70 west out of Denver in January? Are you insane? You have two high mountain passes to cross over (Loveland and Vail), both over 10,000 ft elevation. What do you think happens at that elevation in the winter? Yeah, you might get lucky, but I wouldn't count on it.

Then, you have Glenwood Canyon to navigate (it's now Interstate, but still crooked), and the 6 mile downgrade into the canyon west of Green River, UT, not to mention the 6 mile upgrade coming out. After that, you still have to go down into the Virgin River Canyon in UT and up Mountain Springs Pass just over the line in California. It can, and will, snow heavily in both places.

I-80 presents its own challenges, such as around Elk Mountain, west of Laramie, WY (US-30 from Laramie is a better option when it's snowing and the wind is blowing...which is always) and the series of 3 4 or 5 mile downgrade/upgrades between Little America and Evanston, WY. At least you can skip Parley's Summit (@9000 ft) by taking I-84 from Echo, Ut to Ogden, then south on I-15.

I-40, on the other hand, is prone to high winds and ice from OKC to about the New Mexico line, where you come down off the Llano Estacado to the high plains. After that, snow and wind is your enemy to roughly Gallup, NM, then just snow through Flagstaff (Elev: 7000 ft) and down the hill to Ash Fork. After there, you're pretty much home free.

Choose your poison.
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Old 01-16-2010, 07:13 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 5,838,130 times
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Wink Great traveling weather

"Multiple large and powerful storm systems are expected to slam into CA from the west and northwest over the coming two weeks, all riding this extremely powerful jet stream directly into the state."
- USGS


In the event the OP is still paying attention, you might want to consider this. The quote is a brief excerpt from a much longer and more detailed bulletin from the USGS. They believe, probably in roughly a week or so, that a very heavy storm front will be moving through California, coming ashore from San Diego to the Oregon border, with significant rain and, as they put it, possibly 'tens of feet' of snow in the mountains. Anyone familiar with the Sierra Nevada knows that this is at least possible. Additionally, this storm front is expected to be cold, which implies that areas of California, such as the deserts, that normally do not see snow, might.

Then also, of course, storms across this continent generally move from west to east, so all this only starts in California.
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Old 01-16-2010, 10:15 PM
 
Location: CO
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It's all about timing. Up to the last-minute.

I wouldn't let the Chicken Little's scare you though. Either they've never driven I-70 or are suffering from google-itis. And, no, you don't need chains. Again - it's all about the timing of your trip. The highway can either be bone dry and a no-brainer or a bit messy. I drive it all the time, every month of the year.
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Old 01-17-2010, 02:00 PM
 
2,253 posts, read 5,838,130 times
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Wink Per chains

Allow me to state for the record that I don't like chains. Not in putting them on, in taking them off, in having to drive with them on, they are one big mess.

That said, you should probably carry them, just in case. Particularly if visiting the West Coast. As far as I know Colorado only requires chains on semi-trucks, and in this they are quite strict. Otherwise myself and everyone else does perfectly fine with a decent car and a good set of winter tires. They need not be dedicated winter tires, but should be good M+S tires (not all being created equal). Utah, New Mexico and Arizona seem to be the same as Colorado in this regard. However, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington DO require chains if conditions warrant.

I discovered this once again recently in crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains via Donner Pass on I-80. Fortunately the route out there proved fairly clear, only briefly snow packed in places. That was decidedly not the case over Donner Pass, where it was snowing quite heavily. While I was perfectly content to continue on sans chains, the California Highway Patrol had other ideas. They have stations set up at such times, checking every car carefully. They were quite adamant that I had to exit right there, either put chains on to continue or turn around. I put the chains on (the first time I had in decades), and drove for the next 30 miles with them on, until the far side and only wet pavement once more. It was one big pain, but perhaps worth it that night in an ever so lovely winter wonderland.

Anyway, on your intended route(s) the chance is you will not require tire chains. BUT you might. If having crossed Nevada before, you might have been bemused by the many turnoffs at the side of the road in the desert designated as tire chain installation areas (particularly on US 50). Presumably they mean it, with the rules the same as California: you must use chains unless driving a four wheel drive vehicle equipped with winter tires. It probably won't snow in the desert, but it can. It does snow in Las Vegas, NV occasionally.

Moreover, anyone accustomed only to the snow of the Rocky Mountains will be in for a rude shock on the West Coast. Temperatures are higher there, the snow is generally wetter. This makes it a lot more slick. There would be times and places when you might not only want to have chains on, you'd need to to go anywhere. People are bemused at times how a place such as Seattle, WA can come to a near standstill with but a few inches of snow. But they have no idea how slick and treacherous it can be, nor at times hovering near freezing, which means in a moment snow, water, or ice.

Once upon a time we all used chains like the truckers still use, being nothing but interlinked metal chain, heavy and cumbersome. Technology has improved. Those I used more recently were comprised more of steel wire, and much more civilized. Worth having if at all unsure. As for me, I'd opt for four wheel drive if living on the West Coast and visiting the mountains very much. Ever so much nicer than dealing with chains.
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