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X-Country Trip in Jan.: Chains/Cables Needed?


Enlight

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Howdy Mountain Men, I'll likely be picking up a car on the west coast this January and will be driving it back to New York. Along the way I'm going to be driving from Vegas to Denver and checking out the Million Dollar Highway. From there I will be headed towards Kansas City and St. Louis then Chicago.

 

My question is whether or not I need to purchase snow chains/cables for this trip. I've driven through some dicey upstate New York snow storms but I'm unfamiliar with the Rockies.

 

At the very least, I'm packing an emergency shovel and a -5 F rated sleeping bag in case I need to wait anything out, but should I invest in chains?

 

Thanks.

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Thanks Mr. Gadget. I'm in the midst of buying a certain matte black wagon.

 

Do people typically buy separate wheels for snow tires? Does it make any sense to mount them on one set of wheels? I've never found myself needing them.

 

I live in NYC and we rarely see the type of snow that requires dedicated tires upstate. Also I'd rather not lug a set of wheels and tires across the country if I can get away with it, though I will if I have to. Thanks for your sage advice.

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DAMN IT!

 

I don't know why, but I knew that was the car you were buying. I had fantasies of my own about buying that gem. So know that I mean it in the most loving way possible, but you suck.

 

Long story, but I have multiple sets of alloys; so, yes, I run separate wheel and tire combinations summer and winter. You may not typically need snow tires in the city, but there is a good chance you'll need/want them as you drive from the left coast to the right.

 

Send me a full trip report so I can enjoy the car vicariously.

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Hahaha, absolutely. Your insult is gladly received. It's a helluva car and I'm looking forward to getting to know it well on this trip. Too bad I'm not driving farther north in Utah, otherwise we could've had a little meetup. It's good to be re-joining the LGT community.

 

I will probably be doing some instagramming along the way, but until then that account will mostly be my cats :lol:. I'll chime back in on this thread when I start the trip.

 

You think snow cables make more sense if I'm just using them for this trip? I'm having a hard time justifying $500+ expense for one-time use.

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Chains are only ever required in the mountains for semis/commercial vehicles. I wish they would make rules for passenger cars though. It can be a complete shit show on I70 in snowy weather with all the unprepared front wheel and rear wheel cars with the wrong tires.
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Just an FYI, I lived up by the RMNP for years and years, never used chains. Traversing I-70, rabbit ears, kenosha, berthoud...all of those passes on weekly trips, as long as you have a decent set of all season tires and don't drive like a crazy person, you should be fine! Like Ragman said, the biggest problem you'll have is OTHER drivers.

 

Even in blizzardy conditions, the plows/slicers will usually be out in full force on the major highways.

 

Let us know when you're out here, we can have a mountain meet!

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Awesome, thanks guys. The tires on the car are Continental Extreme Contact with 2/3 tread remaining, reviews on these all-seasons are pretty positive. I think I'll just exercise my smarts as you all advise.

 

It would be awesome to do a meetup, I plan on passing through that area (S. Utah -> Denver) Jan. 18-19. I'm going to be fresh from a reunion in Vegas so I'm sure I will appreciate any human contact during this solo drive.

 

Are there any meetups coming up? Where do you all get-together? I'm still in the planning stages of my trip and can make adjustments and detours.

 

Appreciate all the advice.

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As the others say, your Continentals will be just fine- I have those tires on my LGT and only slightly break loose on ice if I drive like an assphat.

 

Sounds like you will be hitting Grand Junction on your way through to Denver- beware those passes as they have two 11k foot peaks to go through- I thought my poor '13 N/A Forester was going to blow up going up those hills- flooring the pedal and only doing 45 mph close to red line. You should be fine in a turbo, but I wouldn't recommend hard acceleration due to the rapidly fluctuating elevations on that route.

 

Whether the passes will be clear, icy, shut down or open is never known until you get there.

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It's just my opinion, but having driven my car with good all season tires and snow tires - Nokians and Blizzaks - I would choose the snows without hesitation. As for Enlight's cross country trip, if the forecast is really dire, maybe he can hole-up with a board member for a day or two as needed.
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Just to beat the dead horse, you won't need snow tires or chains if you drive reasonably. I-70 is rather well maintained and if the conditions get too bad the DOT will simply close mountain passes.

 

There's a chance you could catch great weather like we're experiencing today:

4:15 PM Mountain

Grand Junction: 48 degrees

Vail: 39

Silverthorne: 43

Denver: 61 (!!!)

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Seems like the consensus is that while snows are preferable, all seasons can pull it off as long as I keep a level head and am vigilant. I think I'll just stick to the all seasons, esp. since it doesn't make too much sense to buy snows for a single trip. I'm on a but of a budget after the car purchase anyhow. Let me know if any of you guys want to meet up. I'll also give you guys a full report when the trip is done. Thanks for all the input, it really helped me to know what to ve prepared for.
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Million Dollar is definitely some of the best that Colorado has to offer but is also one of the most treacherous as well. Sounds like you have decent tires and the common sense to make this trip fine. Most of the avalanche prone spots are either closely monitored and blasted or covered with an avalanche shed but there can be so much snow 550 could be closed.

However, if 550 is less than ideal, you can always go over Lizard Head Pass to the west of 550 up out of Cortez, then thru Dolores and Rico and end up north of Telluride @ Mountain Village and drop back down east to 550 and take it into Ouray. There are a lot of novel places to stay, eat and play at along that stretch and several ways over the Continental Divide into Denver. One thing, if you plan on taking I-70 into Denver on a Saturday or, especially, Sunday; be sure you can get over Vail Pass (about 2 hours east of Grand Junction) by 0830'ish to be ahead of ski traffic jam hell.

Have a great trip!

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Thanks t^Lewis, that was an awesome post. If you don't mind I'd like to ask you another question.

 

I am visiting Zion Nat'l Park and was then planning to go see Arches, but that actually makes no sense if I wanted to do the Million Dollar Highway since I want to end up in Denver to see some friends. It's better for me to scrap Arches altogether and find another site worth seeing.

 

Would you recommend either Grand Staircase or Durango for out-of-car sightseeing? Any other options I'm missing?

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Never been to Grand Staircase, but Durango is kinda an artsy place, new age with American Indian influence, bunch of history. A high school classmate of mine has a nice restaurant there called the Red Snapper, but probably not the best place if on a budget. I think the Durango to Silverton train has a nice Christmas trip back and forth. Tubing hill in Durango and Purgatory close by for skiing. There is a bunch of stuff to do in the area that can be reviewed on the respective local chamber web sites.

Ouray/Ridgway have several hot springs. My son liked the Orvis Hot Springs, probably because it has an area that is clothing optional and there is a little hotel on site with kitchenettes. The Wiesbaden in Ouray has its own hot springs, massage, etc. B&B's, True Grit in Ridgway has a John Wayne connection. Should enjoy the area. Actually, IMHO, the best that Colorado has to offer.

The Arches is quite isolated and if there is snow you may not be able to do as much, but if time is becoming an issue, you would be able to make more time on the interstate. If you have kids, then the Fruita Dinosaur Museum is apparently awesome with lots of hands on digs is just off I-70.

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Good snow tires should keep you dialed in no matter what. Studded is good for night driving/icey roads and "siped" tires are great. Just make sure you have good winter tires and you shouldn't need anything else. Maybe a little metal avalanche shovel and a toe rope for safety.
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  • 1 month later...
Just an update for everyone that I made it back to New York safely. I didn't encounter any snow through Colorado but did in New York, ironically. Unfortunately I didn't get to check out Durango or the Million Dollar Highway either was I was running behind schedule. If anyone wants to check out pictures from my trip they are on my instagram @godwinbchen . There are pictures of the Redwoods, Pacific Coast Highway and Utah national parks in there.
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