7 Sep 2023
Traveling to Tahoe during the winter can be smooth sailing or a chaotic mess. Sometimes the roads are clear, the skies are blue, and the trip goes by in the blink of an eye. Other times the visiblity is nill, the roads are icy, and you're stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for hours at a time. If you're planning to take a trip to Tahoe for a long family vacation or a quick ski trip, you'll want to be prepared to meet whatever lies ahead. Here are some useful tips to make your trip just a little bit easier.
Choose Your Travel Dates Wisely
Avoid the Traffic
Don't land yourself smack dab in the middle of ski traffic. A three hour drive can easily double if you're driving to and from the Bay Area with everyone else. Try changing your dates to a midweek arrival and departure to avoid the rush driving to Tahoe on Friday night and leaving on Sunday afternoon. You'll enjoy fewer crowds at the ski resorts too! If you can't change your dates try heading to Tahoe Friday morning or after 7pm. Head home early Sunday morning (sorry you'll have to miss a full day on the slopes) or late Sunday night.
Avoid the Holidays
Lodging and lift tickets are at a premium price during the holidays. Save hundreds, or even thousands of dollars by booking your trip outside the holiday weeks. Traffic and lift lines are better too! You might have to take the kids out of school for a few days, but sometimes it's worth it. Just make sure they do their homework!
Be Prepared for Weather
You'll want to be prepared for everything and anything when traveling to the mountains. The weather might look clear, but a storm can move in at any moment. Or maybe what you thought would be a 3 hour trip turns into a 5 hour trip due to traffic or chain controls. Always be sure to look at the forecast before you head for the mountains. You can check the weather at NOAA.gov and Caltrans for road conditions at http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi.
Don't be stuck without the proper supplies. Keep the following in your vehicle:
- Chains - Practice putting on your chains before you head up the hill. It's not easy to learn how to do it in the snow.
- Ice Scraper
- Cell Phone Charger/Adaptor
- Full Tank of Gas
- Plenty of windshield fluid. You'll want to clear the slush and mud that sprays onto those windshields after a storm.
Avoid Ski Resort Traffic
If you plan on hitting the slopes, there are a few ways to avoid most of the ski traffic to each resort:
- Leave really early. Plan on being at the resort when the slopes open to avoid the masses and get a few runs to yourself. Setting your alarm an hour earlier, and eating a quick breakfast, can pay off in the long run.
- If you're not a pow hound and you don't care about getting "freshies", you might as well stay home on powder days as these tend to bring in the most traffic. If you don't mind navigating the chop, just show up late morning/early afternoon and you can still enjoy blue bird days.
- Leave the ski resorts before 3pm to avoid the mass exodus leaving the resort. Ask yourself if it's really worth taking one more run or hitting the apres ski if it means you're going to be stuck in traffic for hours.
Purchase Travel Insurance
If you have the option of purchasing Travel Insurance when booking your Tahoe Vacation do it! The small fee for Travel Insurance is totally worth the peace of mind it brings you if the roads close, the resorts are on wind hold, somone in your group gets injured, or you lose your job and can't afford the trip anymore. It might cost a little extra but it could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars! Most travel insurance companies offer a "Free Look" of the coverage to make sure you know what you're getting and that it fits your needs.
Pack Your Patience
Whether it's due to storm conditions or heavy ski traffic be sure to pack your patience. Remember, you're heading to Tahoe to have a good time. Why not sit back and enjoy the time you get to spend with friends, family, and spectacular beauty? When you start to get annoyed because everything is moving a little slower than you'd like, remember to take a breath, relax, and smile. You're in Tahoe to have fun.