South Lake Tahoe recently experienced a crowded holiday weekend with a record-breaking winter storm… let’s just say, it didn’t go well, for anybody. From tourists, to locals, Highway Patrol, and snow removal personnel, everyone was negatively affected by the heavy snowfall and extreme congestion on the roads.
Intermittent highway closures for whiteout snow conditions and avalanche control increased travel times (some travelers reported up to 12-15 hours of travel time from the Bay Area) and standstill traffic on the highways. Visitors with 2-wheel drive vehicles were under prepared and attempted to drive over the mountain passes without carrying tire chains, and were turned around at the chain control station. Travelers unfamiliar with snow driving were losing control and sliding off the roads, and since emergency crews and tow trucks were unable to reach them, some drivers were forced to abandon their vehicles. People ran out of gas, food, warmth, and most importantly, patience, as even fights were breaking out on the roads.
As with any road trip, being prepared is key, especially for driving in the mountains during the winter months. Conditions can get hazardous here and quickly; coupled with roads and towns that are not equipped to handle a massive influx of people and inclement weather, it fast becomes a nightmare for travelers and locals alike. One of the chief complaints from the people trapped on the roads was the lack of information on what the holdup was. People were even calling 9-1-1 for non-emergency questions.
Here are some recommendations for resources to help provide you with the most current road conditions and closures, as well as tips for winter driving, and what to expect with snow removal at your Lake Tahoe cabin rental when you arrive:
Also, the Placerville CHP Facebook page has also been very informative and up to date with Highway 50 road conditions from Placerville east to South Lake Tahoe.
The Waze App is another way to see current road conditions. An important note on Waze, and other road conditions apps: these apps are designed to direct travelers to side streets and alternate routes to try to avoid traffic jams, but it doesn’t take into account the weather. They can direct people to roads that have not yet been plowed, creating a potentially dangerous driving situation. Please ignore these side street detour suggestions, and keep to the main roads to stay safe!
Check out our blog post on Winter Driving Tips to help you better prepare for your drive to the Lake Tahoe.
Here is what to expect with snow removal once you arrive at your vacation rental destination.
Traffic from Sunday departures is also becoming troublesome to visitors trying to head back home, even when the roads are clear. The busiest time on the roads are between 11am to 1pm, as most hotels and vacation rental companies have an 11 o’clock checkout time. It is recommended to get on the road earlier in the morning, or stay and play for the day, and leave town after a day of adventure at the lake! Or if you can, book a stay with a Monday departure.
Check Cancellation Policies
Most visitors said the reason they braved the roads and the extremely long traffic delays during this last holiday weekend was because their vacation rental or hotel reservations, along with ski passes and rental equipment purchased online, were non-refundable. Most South Lake Tahoe vacation rental companies are understanding to these kinds of extreme travel circumstances and are willing to either issue refunds or extend an offer to move the guests’ reservations to a later date. Some other companies, like us here at Buckingham Properties Lake Tahoe, offer a special discount on an additional night should the weather or traffic cause guests to need to stay one more night.
On that note, it is highly recommended to carefully read your travel cancellation policies. Purchasing travel insurance is highly encouraged — it is usually a small percentage of your rental total, and covers items like: trip cancellation due to highway closures or extreme/unsafe road conditions, as well as medical insurance for everyone in the group, and much more.
We hope these resources and tips will help prepare you for a smooth and enjoyable journey to and from Lake Tahoe for your next winter getaway. Do you have any tips that you have found to be helpful during your winter travels? We’d love to hear from you!