7 Must Haves For Winter Driving in Lake Tahoe

By Shanie Matthews

Some moments positively glisten in winter. The cold air creates tiny fragments of snowy diamonds that glitter in the air. A magnificent, rainbow-infused sparkle surrounds your family as you enjoy the adrenaline-filled glee of sliding on snow. 

But winter can have its draw backs, too – especially when it comes to traveling. Driving in winter in Lake Tahoe can have the potential of being either a time of ease or an event wrought with white knuckles and frightened faces.

What makes the experience stay positive? Here are 7 must haves for driving in Lake Tahoe that will make your trip that much more enjoyable.

Try to make it 4WD. Life is oh-so-much easier in Lake Tahoe if driven in a 4WD or All Wheel Drive automobile. The difference between having the capacity of a 4WD or a 2WD can actually be a life or death situation if the snow is deep. If nothing else, the ability to have control of all four wheels is incredibly important when dealing with ice. Of course, all 2WD cars and trucks can drive in the mountains, but the difference between a trip without a headache or one filled with worry can literally be the difference of two little wheels.

Give your car its best shot. When you’ve decided that you are going to make that trip up to the mountains, be kind to the car and get an oil change, a tire check and an engine check to be certain that your car is ready to deal with adverse driving conditions. Also be sure to have things like a full tank of gas, jumper cables, an ice scraper, safety flares and reflective triangles. Although the last place that you want to deal with a broken-down car is on the side of a snowy road in a snowstorm, having all of your ducks in a row gives you your best shot at success.

It’s all about them chains. This is no joke. Carrying the appropriate set of tire chains for your car or truck can be a make-it-or-break-it type of situation. Many a snow storm in Lake Tahoe is filled with such white vengeance that it closes down the roads for any auto that is not equipped with tire chains. Stop by any gas station or auto supply store to find a set that best fits your ride.

Make your inner world cozy. When it comes to traveling in the winter – especially when you are coming to the mountains – you can’t go wrong with setting up a small emergency pack in case your car gets stuck, the road closes or (as happened at the base of Alpine Meadows last year) your car is buried in an avalanche. It’s as easy as putting together a warm blanket, winter socks, a good pair of warm gloves, a working flashlight with extra batteries, two to four automatic hand warmers and a bottle of water. These items can make a scary situation relatively harmless.

Just in case. You never want to get stuck in the snow, but unfortunately the situation sometimes arises. To give yourself the best chance of quickly getting your car unstuck on your own, there are two items that will come in handy. A metal shovel and a bag of kitty litter (or sand) make immeasurable differences when it comes to heaving a car out of a snow hole.

Have a few snacks. It’s nice to have a few bites of food when waiting out a blizzard in a car. But an important point to keep in mind with having snacks in cars in this area is this: bears. Bears have a habit of cruising cars in winter looking for food. Even a discarded wrapper can be cause for a bear to investigate. In fact, I had a bear break into my Suburban for a pack of Tic Tacs. To be safe, be sure to remove any food when you have reached your final destination.

Give yourself a charge. It’s pretty certain that you will have your phone on you when traveling, but one added item that can come in incredibly handy is an extra charger and/or battery. Have it stored away in a safe place for possible future use. A battery dies more quickly in cold weather, and the extra way to stay connected can be a link to safety when it matters most.

Are you wondering where to drive to when you're in Lake Tahoe? Check out our Daytime and Nightlife sections to find fun activities happening around the basin.

Photos: Tahoe.com

About the Author Shanie Matthews
A longtime Lake Tahoe local, Shanie is a freelance writer, Vinyasa Flow yoga teacher and positivity warrior. A true lover of the the gorgeous Tahoe region, she connects with the serenity of the mountains via skiing, biking and backpacking. She also believes in the gift of yoga and its way of allowing one to become his or her true best self, a passion she shares with the world with her online yoga studio.