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Old 11-02-2015, 05:14 PM   #43
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Or take I-5 down to Napa Valley. That's where we are right now and there is no chance of snow!

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Old 11-02-2015, 07:03 PM   #44
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When we hit snow flakes last year we took the first exit and stayed there till the snow was cleared. There is no place I need to get to bad enough to pull a trailer in snow.

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Old 11-02-2015, 07:36 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by Stefrobrts View Post
We are heading for Yosemite in a week, just as the first snow of the year is blowing in. They said to be prepared for chain advisories on some roads. We tow the Caravel with an AWD Ford Flex, with an equalizer hitch and friction sway control. What should we know about towing in snow?
Dear Friend, seldom will you hear such a unanimous opinion given so clearly from so many. Please heed the wisdom being given you. I have towed a TT in snow, with chains on my tow vehicle and a set on the back axle of my trailer. I was going in and out of hunting camp in the Black Hills of SD. I survived the experience, but never repeated it. All works well going up hill slowly. Then you hit a downhill, even a short slight one, and you need to control your speed. Manually engaging the trailer brakes very gently produces very slight braking, and God willing you survive. I was young and foolish then, and I never repeated the experience, because even with chains on an axle of the trailer, you have a chained tow vehicle which slows down when you let up on the gas, and a towed trailer which wants to pass you. Wrecking your Airstream and your tow vehicle isn't the worst that could happen. You or a loved one could be killed or paralyzed. Just take the corporate wisdom of the replies and make other plans. And then enjoy your alternate decision.

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Old 11-02-2015, 07:50 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by ericpeltier View Post
My experience with AWD:

Audi and Subaru - always-on systems that direct torque to all wheels at all times. These are awesome. Slap some snow tires on them and you can break the laws of physics, it seems. I once drove my audi allroad over Berthoud Pass in 12" deep slippery snow. I could gas it in the corners and the damn thing just kept going.

Suffice to say, I'd take AWD over 4WD anyday in the snow.
I agree with your assessment. If you ask Subaru owners (I own one), they will say Subaru AWD is the best and Audi is the 2nd best. If you ask the Audi owners, they will say the reverse :-) Either way, these two are in a league of their own when it comes to AWD.

Consumer Reports ranked the top SUVs based on snow capability and the top 3 were Subaru. I bet if the sedans were allowed Legacy/Impreza/WRX would make the top 6 all Subaru.

Here is what a Legacy sedan can do with all season tires:

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Old 11-02-2015, 09:47 PM   #47
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meh ... I've owned Audis and Subarus - nothing compared to an Eagle Talon / Mitsubishi Eclipse with blizzaks. Sadly they're no longer made.
Carry on ...
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Old 11-02-2015, 10:59 PM   #48
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We had an Audi Quattro with Blizzaks, awesome winter car, commuted 70 miles every day with it through the back country. It was a manual transmission and had one fault on snow packed roads.

If you were approaching a curve with a little too much speed and lifted your foot off the gas, the wheels would quite suddenly be turning at a lower speed than the car was moving, a four wheel braking effect. Ever try to steer around an icy corner with your brakes on. That's the only time I didn't like the Quattro.
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Old 11-03-2015, 10:01 AM   #49
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Don't tow in the snow. I was traveling with a friend in Canada following his 19' single axle Bambi and I was towing a 27' dual axle Flying Cloud. We left Frog Lake and got caught in a snow storm. We had to keep going to get out of the storm as there was no way to go back. Even at about 15 mph, his trailer suddenly jack knifed nearly taking him and the trailer off the road. He was able to get it under control and it was several hours before he could talk again. Pretty scary.
I think the dual axle trailers are a little more stable than singles but I still would not tow in the snow.
We got caught in a snow storm again in New Mexico on the way to Mardi Gras. Temperature dropped to 19 and the winds were blowing horizontal snow. We were able to get to a campground and wait it out until morning. Woke up to sunny skies and no wind. Drove onto the highway and for miles there were dozens of big rigs blown off the road and many were overturned.
Also some states require the trailer to have chains and there are plenty of horror stories here about that experience.
The ability to follow instructions is highly underrated.
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Old 11-03-2015, 01:09 PM   #50
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It looks like Stephanie has already decided to cancel this trip. Smart move.

Just one other thing, though, is that you may be a professional driver with years of snow country experience under your belt.... but you have no control over the other drivers, who may have lost control of their vehicles.

I once lost control of my vehicle going uphill on I-80 east of Salt Lake near Parley's Summit, in that belt where valley rain turns to mountain snow. I hit some black ice, my wheels locked, and I must have over-compensated in turning into the skids, because my arcs left and right kept getting wider and wider. I realized that if I took one more swing to the right I'd be down the gully (and with my 2-year old daughter in the back seat,) so I took a chance and deliberately came to a stop into the median barricade (fortunately no longer going at Interstate speeds at that point.) Fortunately the collision wasn't bad and neither of us was hurt.

But of course everyone else was slip-sliding away at that time, as well, including semi-trailers. Waiting on the narrow median strip for the police officer to arrive was about as scary as the skidding itself. This is how multi-vehicle pile-ups occur.

And it's not that I was unused to winter driving. I used to drive home up there when I-80 was so snowed under that only the reflector posts on the side indicated where the pavement was.

I count myself really lucky. I think since then, the drivers' ed advice is just to straighten out if you can, vs. a making a more definite turn into the skid.
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Old 11-03-2015, 02:07 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by Len n Jeanne View Post
It looks like Stephanie has already decided to cancel this trip. Smart move.
Yeah, I posted that back around page 2, but I don't really expect folks to read the whole thread. Good info being shared here either way, for the next person who needs to travel with snow on the horizon.


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Old 11-03-2015, 03:45 PM   #52
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Long post warning...

I understand that the OP has made a decision, but in the spirit of the topic of snow driving Here is my 2cents..

Here are some experiences and observations I would like to add to the discussion.

AWD, 4WD, 4x4.
These are not all the same. Personally I found out the hard way. I had a 2005 Ford Escape AWD. Turns out it is actually front wheel drive. When the transmission detects the front wheels slipping, torque is transferred to rear wheels until traction returns to the front. So the vehicle actually FWD, then RWD, then momentarily 4WD then FWD (go look up hoe AWD systems work for more tech info). This results in some odd handling characteristics where your car when sliding handles like a FWD car and under steers, then handles like a RWD and over steers. I regard this as very, very dangerous for snow/ice driving. This may not be true for all AWD systems..

I now have a Ford Expedition 4WD. I can drive in 4WD Auto where the vehicle is RWD until slipping occurs and torque is partially transferred to front wheels so all 4 wheels have torque resulting in a transition from over steer to under steer. Nominally much safer. But I can also engage full time 4WD with the option of a low range option. What does this mean? When I am on plowed roads Auto it fine. When I am in fresh snow, or falling snow, or worse compacted snow/ice I prefer full time 4H. When I am stuck in deep snow in a parking lot or on the beach 4L (low range) is the way to go.

My Land Rover is completely different. It is full time 4WD. It is a smarty-pants computer. When it starts to loose traction, it cuts power, applies brakes, moves torque to the least slipping wheels….. It feels strange to me, but my god the thing is unshakable.

All these systems are only a benefit when you are accelerating as they only provide extra traction when moving quicker, they have no impact on your ability to slow down. It does not matter if your vehicle is RWD or 4WD if you are on the brakes then you only car about how your vehicle deals with deceleration. That is another topic.

Tires and chains.
Tires are your interface to the road. They are so important. In colder weather the rubber of the tire can become hard and inflexible. This reduces the ability for the tire to grip the road and hence when you hit the brakes you have less ability to slow down before you lock up.

Summer tires are a disaster in the snow for this reason.

Mud and Snow (M+S) are much, much better as they are designed with tread patterns and compounds that work better in cool and wet conditions as well as mud and snow!

Winter tires are designed with different composition completely. They suck in warm dry weather and wear really quick, But in the cold and snow, my god they are amazing. I currently have Blizzak DMV-1 on my Expedition and the thing is amazing. Early each winter I find a quiet parking lot with snow and practice braking and sliding so I know what it feels like. To a passerby I may look like a yahoo, but I am just re-familiarizing myself with what the vehicle feels like when on the edge.

Chains suck. But if you are a hill on ice they can be essential.. I carry them, I inspect them regularly, I have not used them in years. I don’t want to.

I have not towed on snow/ice yet. But I will. Not because I plan too, but because during the winter storms can come in and you can be caught out. So I will plan to be prepared for this issue. In Oregon you can tow a trailer but you maybe required to have chains on one or more axles. I do believe this can be done safely. My plan is to have chains on the SUV and the trailer, be in 1st gear at about 5-10mph, not touch the brakes or accelerator and have my hazard lights on the whole time as my knuckles turn white…

Hope this helps.
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Old 11-03-2015, 04:39 PM   #53
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Personally I would not tow in snowy conditions, but that's more of an acknowledgement of my personal skills than a universal truth.

There are plenty of Airstream owners winter camping and towing in snowy conditions, Just Five More Minutes ( with our Airstream) is perhaps the most popular of the blogs detailing all weather camping.

Commercial trucking doesn't come to a total stop the second it snows, neither is there an automatic stop on towing a trailer - if you've got the skills to do it and are aware of the inherent risks.
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Old 11-03-2015, 04:52 PM   #54
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You better have chains for your tow vehicle or you may be there till spring.
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Old 11-04-2015, 06:31 AM   #55
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I hope our original poster has a good time with the alternate destination. A sound decision. Others have now posted on a more general topic of winter driving, chains, etc. so I'll add a few more.

When I used to drive US2 in Northern Montana the winter temps would often be between -20F and -35F and the road hard snowpack. Strangely I could drive nearly as fast (65-70) on snowpack at -30F with studded tires as I did on dry pavement, but if the temps warmed up to -15F I'd slide every which way.

If you ever have to use chains, remember that they only touch the ground every 8" or so, and they only slow you down if you apply the brakes lightly. No brakes at all and the wheels just keep turning, and too much brake and the wheel will only work if the chain is at that moment engaging the ice, otherwise the rubber tire will simply slide. The trick is to lightly engage the chains until they bite, and then increase braking a little more. You can still slide with chains if you put it into a skid.

Truckers in the mountainous West often have sanders in front of their first drive axle on the tractor. That can make a huge difference until you can get to where you can put the chains on. Many mountain passes have pull off areas where they do a chain law check and an installation area. I live in Atlanta and down here even the snow plows lacked chains when we had ice storms, and none of the truckers seemed to have chains or sanders, since we only have ice storms, on average every four years or so. But life is full of surprises.

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Old 11-04-2015, 01:15 PM   #56
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Don't let a little snow deter you from visiting Yosemite in the winter! Its drop dead gorgeous.... Just don't tow your AS in there.

My first weekend date with my now wife, was a visit to Yosemite on Presidents day weekend... I was driving a Baby Benz, rear wheel drive and had chains. We were on our way to spend a night or two at Tenya Lodge. Got to the West gate and they advised us that Tenya was outside the SOUTH gate. I should have turned around and taken the downhill approach outside the park, and then up through Fresno, but time was running short so we ventured on into the park... They had also advised us that the road in the park down to the South gate was being closed for accidents and snow clearing on a frequent basis. Undeterred, we struck out with a half tank of gas... BIG mistake. Chains eat up your mileage in no time. It was dramatic though, with sheer dropoffs and towering firs draped in snow. White knuckled the whole way and watching the gas gauge needle move to empty (literally, you could watch it move)...
we pressed on.
We were told there was a gas station just inside the South gate... It was only going to be open to 6pm however. Several hours later, after s top to fix a broken chain flapping on the side of the car at one point, we pulled into the station at a quarter to 6 and there was no one to be found. Fortunately, we were within a mile or so of Tenya so we pressed on and pulled into the driveway on fumes. I was never so glad to reach a destination... We settled in and watched the snow come down through our picture window that night... All 20 inches of it. The next day the front desk lent us a shovel and we dug the car out and went to the station and gassed up. Spent the next couple of days touring the better part of the park. It was delightful! Stopped at a lodge of a warm drink and a sit before the fire. The scenery was never better.

After a day or two we opted to head to warmer climes and head down the hill to Carmel and Monterey and spent an evening sitting on the beach listening to the seals barking... Only in California! My wife's daughter, who was along for the trip had never seen that kind of snow before and I think it was at this point that she decided to become a lifelong California resident! They were from Miami.

You've already gotten all the advice you need, and its all correct... Chains are required for trailers (like tractor trailers), and AWD is good enough for vehicles, but there is so much more to it that that. We used to carry chains for a variety of reasons and I personally prefer Spikes Spiders over conventional chains. Doubt they size them for AS hubs, but they are so much easier to put on and take off its well worth the premium they get.

Again, this is kind of a last resort if you get stuck in such a situation. Surprise no one had advised adjusting your brake controller, but having a skidding trailer pushing your TV is no fun. Its hard enough steering a regular vehicle much less with 5 or more tons behind you pushing you.

But let me reiterate, Yosemite in winter is well worth the adventure if properly equipped and prepared. I'd come in the South gate and stay at Tenya if I were you. The hill up from Fresno isn't too bad. The way into the West gate is not so good with many chain required stretches.

So now you know how to impress a date, and as it so happened, I did not scare off my wife, as today is our 20th Anniversary. Our daughter has become a lifelong California girl and she and her family regularly travel to the hills for skiing and sledding.... And our AS and AWD Escalade EXT are in her care, but their destination for Thanksgiving Camping is Santa Cruz!

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