Snow, You’re Traveling This Winter?
Realistically Navigating Carson City in the Winter
Written by local Shelby Holte
In the age of social media, we’ve all done this at least once: Your trip is booked, itinerary set, activities planned. And then if you’re like me, you have a folder of saved helpful posts from instagram or even a Pinterest board of things you want to do or sights you want to see at your destination.
And then… you arrive. And the place looks nothing like the pictures because Mother Nature has intervened. While on a local level, we all welcome the extra water in our high desert climate, we want to acknowledge that the Sierra snow can be a curveball to our visitors. The following is a compilation of notes, thoughts, and resources to help you have an amazing trip to Carson City and our surrounding areas in any weather!
Carson City is located right at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range which typically allows us a gentler winter experience than our high altitude neighbors. Visitors to the nearby slopes often come down during their trips for amenities that aren’t available lakeside and even to spend a night or two in Nevada’s capital. While Highway 50 between Carson City and Lake Tahoe is wonderfully maintained year round, it’s important to note the reality that there will be waves of treacherous conditions during winter storms. The snow we all celebrate from the top of the ski lift can present a whole different ball game on Highway 50 as conditions can change just as quickly as the elevation does. Storms often hover at the higher altitudes, so while we may be having a mild winter flurry down below, lake level may be in whiteout conditions.
One of the best resources for viewing real time road conditions in the area is nvroads.com, a site powered by the Nevada Department of Transportation. The site is home to multiple webcams throughout the area with live footage of road conditions.
Pro Tip: If the webcam at Spooner Summit is a full screen of white, it’s best to make some hot cocoa and stay put until conditions improve. Jokes aside, don’t feel like you need to wait for a road closure to press pause on your trip. We all win when we drive within our means!
Tires and Chains
The other three access points for Carson City are Highway 50 from the east, Highway 395 from the south, and Interstate 580 from the North. While elevation change isn’t as much of a factor on these roads, ice, wind, and snow can still cause tumultuous conditions. All four of these roads are equipped with signage that will flash when chains or a 4 wheel drive vehicle with proper snow tires are required for travel. In some circumstances, Chain Control personnel may be present on the road to inspect vehicles for travel. In case of severe circumstances, road closures are known to happen from time to time and are always in everyone’s best interest when employed. Rest assured: our local authorities truly are excellent at efficiently lifting road closures when its safe to do so. Odds are good you won’t be held up too long.
For the local reader, Fall is always a great time to have your tires checked to make sure you’re ready for winter travel. If you’re planning to rent a car while visiting in the winter months, be sure to request a 4 wheel drive for best maneuvering in the snow, and inquire with your rental company about the tires in use.
In case you weren’t raised by a road warrior of a dad and didn’t hear this every time you left the house that first year you got your driver’s license, I’ll be the one to bare the Dad banner for us all today:
Four wheel drive is not four wheel stop. The best vehicle with the freshest tires will help you get going in slick situations. It will not help you stop or slow down any better than your fellow travelers. Always leave extra space between vehicles during winter travel and drive within your means. Winter driving is a team sport! Alright, that’s enough #blogdadpersona for now!
Preparation is key for winter travel in the Sierra Nevada range! Here’s a quick packing list of things to always keep in your vehicle during the winter months in case of delays or emergency.
- Water, water, water!
- Layers and blankets for warmth
- First aid kit
- Phone charger
- A small shovel
What would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments! We hope you only ever dip into the snack stash for fun, and never in an emergency, but its best to be prepared.
A Bonus Day in Carson City
So you’re spending a winter storm with us, huh? Whether by design or by weather surprise, we’re glad to have you! Carson City is home to some incredible trails for snowshoeing, winter hiking, and cross country skiing. Check out this list of beginner trails in the area, and then add snow and layers into the mix. You’re in for a day of views and great miles! BACKLINK TO TRAILS BLOG.
Need a break from the cold? Head to one of these spots to unzip your jacket and have some fun. If you really need to defrost those toes, visit the Historic Carson Hot Springs for a relaxing soak that’s sure to warm you up. Pssst, there’s burgers and beer next door! It’s kind of a big deal.
Hungry? Same. See you downtown at one of our favorite restaurants!
Tired? You’ve earned some rest! Snag a hotel room for a night or two and enjoy all Carson City has to offer. When you pause on the driving and the snow ceases to be the enemy, it becomes a winter wonderland all over again. We’re glad you’re here to see it!