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Old 12-01-2009, 10:51 AM
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We are planning to drive from Minnesota to Utah in December and looking at different routes. I know it depends on the weather. Going along I-80 is the fastest but the mountain passes can be hard in the winter. Depending on the weather, we may not go at all. Any advice?
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Old 12-01-2009, 11:34 AM
Location: Wyoming
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The only true mountain pass on I-80 will be on the Wyoming-Utah border, and it's not normally much of a challenge. I-80 gets closed across the high plains of Wyoming more often because of a little snow and a lot of wind. That's not too unusual, but it is unusual for it to be closed for more than a day. If I were you I'd keep a very close eye on the weather and plan your route by what it's doing.

If snow or ice is a problem on I-80 or I-70 across Iowa and Nebraska/Kansas, consider I-90 as far west as Gillette, WY (then WY-59/I-25 south to I-80 or I-70). Generally these storms blow through in a day or two, so by picking your route at the last minute, you can usually avoid the worst weather.

I'd get some cable chains to toss into the trunk, and pack an emergency kit consisting of blankets, candles, flashlight, water and some snacks. Better safe than sorry.
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Old 12-01-2009, 01:50 PM
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Can we put a link to the weather channel as a sticky? These type of posts are becoming epidemic.

Again - watch weather channel a few days before leaving, then plan route accordingly.
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Old 12-01-2009, 05:13 PM
Location: Texas
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The only real mountain pass you'll have to cross on I-80 is Parley's Summit, just before Salt Lake City. But, it can easily be avoided by turning off on I-84 just past the Utah line and continuing west to I-15, then south to SLC. It's only a few miles further and has literally no up or down grades at all. There is no reason to go over the Wasatch Front when you can go through it.

There is a pretty good downgrade between Cheyenne and Laramie, WY, but it's not too bad. There's also some pretty steep, but straight, ups and downs just before Evanston, WY, but they're nothing to worry about.

As another poster mentioned, wind is your biggest enemy across Wyoming, especially west of Laramie where the highway curves around Elk Mountain. When it's snowing there, it's also blowing and can be very, very treacherous. However, there's a way around that too. Just take US-30 from Laramie to Saratoga, where it rejoins I-80, and you'll avoid the worst of it. It's a two lane road, but it stays at a much lower elevation and the wind normally does not blow there like it does around the mountain.
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Old 12-01-2009, 07:48 PM
Location: Eastern Washington
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Long-distance winter trips to "visit Grandma for Christmas" - in snow country. I call these "Lemming Runs".

You are better off to fly, even if nothing goes wrong while on the road, IMHO. Add up the gas, the on-road meals, the nights in motels, and you are pretty close to paying for air fare, usually...

And that's if you don't have any mechanical or "ditch finding" problems.....
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