Lake Tahoe has just received its first good snowstorm and ski resorts are working hard to get their slopes ready for the holiday season. If you are visiting the Tahoe area for the first time, here are a few things to know about visiting the mountains and getting around in the snow.
Driving in the snow
If you are renting a car or bringing your own, it’s necessary to have good snow tires or 4-wheel drive. Always carry chains with you, and remember that even a 4-wheel drive vehicle is no good on ice. If there is a snowstorm over the Donner Pass, the highway patrol may close the road to anyone not prepared with chains and 4-wheel drive. If you are able to get to and over the pass, you will most likely see people in yellow rain jackets on the side of the road. These are “chain monkeys” or people who will help you put on or take off your snow chains…for a price. Always be prepared and be sure to carry cash with you when driving over the Donner Summit.
As you drive along the roads around Tahoe, you may see signs that say “No Stopping. Avalance Area.” Avalanches are not as prevalent in the Tahoe area as in some mountain areas, but they do happen. Don’t stop on any roads near a slope and don’t go off-road or into the backcountry without the right gear. If you are in the Tahoe area just after a snowstorm, you may be woken up in the morning by what sounds like a cannon. These are howitzers shooting off charges that are used to create controlled avalanches. These blasts loosen up any accumulated snow that could barrel down the mountain on their own.
Wear the Right Clothes
Some clothes do better than others in the snow and cold. If you are venturing out to do some skiing or sledding, don’t wear jeans. Repeat after me: DON’T WEAR JEANS. Melted snow and ice cling to the fabric and then refreeze, making you cold and wet very fast. Also stay away from cotton T-shirts and other underwear that don’t wick away sweat. Stick with wool, silk and man-made material like Capilene which is sold at Patagonia. Cover up with Gore-Tex, down, fleece and other waterproof and windproof materials. Don’t forget your hat and gloves, warm socks (not cotton) and a good pair of boots.
By keeping your eye on the weather and being prepared for anything, you can have a great trip up to Tahoe…during the first snowstorm and into the heart of winter.
Photo courtesy of [jurvetson]