Planning a snow trip? Check out these Sierra driving tips from the pros

Byby Juan Carlos Guerrero KGO logo
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Sierra driving tips from the pros
Experts share tips to make a snow trip enjoyable, even when road conditions cause long delays.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There's no way around it. Driving up to the Sierra during the winter can be risky. What is usually a three-and-a-half hour trip to South Lake Tahoe can take up to six hours or more when there is snow and ice on the road.

COMMUTE CHALLENGE: Driving from Bay Area to Lake Tahoe

There are things you can do to prepare yourself for the unexpected. We got tips from two experts: CHP officer Herman Baza and Steve Merrifield, who owns Demo Sport in San Rafael.

Check the weather. Make sure there isn't a huge storm headed to the Sierras during your drive.

Monitor road conditions. Check for Bay Area traffic conditions and Caltrans website to road restrictions on specific highways freeways. Depending on snow conditions, the CHP may require chains for cars without four-wheel drive.

Slow down. Driving on mountain roads can be dangerous, especially when there is snow. The best way to stay in control and avoid a spin out is to go slow. Keep in mind that the speed limit when using snow chains is 30 miles per hour.

Prepare for delays. An accident can cause a lengthy backup. Make sure you have plenty of fuel in your vehicle in case you are stuck on a mountain road for hours waiting for it to clear.

Carry a blanket. It can get chilly inside a vehicle if you are waiting for extended periods in near freezing temperatures. A warm blanket will keep you warm without having to keep the car and the heater running.

Pack water and food. Fill up those water bottles as a precaution, and pack granola bars, beef jerky or other snacks that travel well and don't need to be warmed up to eat.

Carry a plastic tarp. You will be glad you have one if you need to put on chains or work on your car. A plastic tarp can protect you from slushy roads and keep your ski clothes clean.

Pack extra gear. If you need to work on your vehicle, you will likely get yourself dirty. Having an extra jacket, gloves and cap will keep your regular winter clothes clean for the slopes.

Carry a flashlight and a headlamp. Winter roads can get very dark at night. A flashlight is a must, but make sure you also have a headlamp to keep your hands free.

Carry warm water. Fill up a thermos with warm or hot water. It may come in handy to get ice off wheel nuts or other emergencies.

Travel off peak. Everyone wants to go to Tahoe after work on a Friday and come back on Sunday night in time for work. Heading out on Friday morning or coming back on Monday morning can make the trip a lot more enjoyable since there will be a lot less people on the road.