Ski Road Trip Misadventures


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Ski road tripping misadventures:
March 2018, memorable drive in a remote part of western Montana traveling from Jackson, WY, toward Canada. We exited I-90 southeast of Missoula around 8:30 pm to head north in the direction of Revelstoke. There was a motel at the Interstate exit, but I was not sleepy and decided to drive a few more miles. Oops. From then on we saw very little civilization traveling on dark, two-lane roads in what turned out to be an area of National Forests and designated wilderness land. At 10:30 pm we came across an unattended gas station with self-service pumps and a small, 1950s-type motel, the Seeley Lake Motor Lodge. I was ever so glad to make stops at both! My wife and son were in the car with me, but I didn't let on that we'd been driving on fumes for 30 minutes at 10pm in the middle of nowhere. My wife was pissed when I told her the full story the next day. When we hit the road again in the morning, it took another 90 miles on MT Route 83 before we came to the next motels and gas stations in Kalispell. Lesson learned; don't let your gas tank get below one-third full in Big Sky country.

During the winter of 2019 my wife and I drove over Monarch Pass on the way to Crested Butte. We have a Subaru Outback, but only all season radials on that trip. We hit a snow squall about 530pm on the western descent of Monarch Pass and our car slide uncontrollably for about 50 yards. Fortunately, we were going slow and there was no other traffic on the road. I now run the Outback with snow tires during ski season.

I could go on and on, but those are a couple of recent incidents. What sort of misadventures have you experienced on ski trips? Not necessarily car problems.
On day 1 of the 34-day Jan-Feb 2012 road trip I did this about an hour short of my first stop in Eureka.

A car slowed in front of me on a forested 2 lane part of 101. I passed on his left but the reason he slowed was to make a left turn without signaling onto his rural driveway. :eusa-doh: The next day I drove to Bend, which fortunately has a Porsche dealer who determined that there was no structural damage that would make the car unsafe to drive. There was a lot of wind noise so I got a ton of duct tape to put along the B-pillar and door joints.

It is fortunate that most of my driving was solo. The week Liz was along she had to climb in over the driver's seat because opening the passenger side would break those duct tape seals. The car also survived being parked at Mustang's pickup for three days where temps got as low as -20F.

Way back in November 1981 I had a road trip with multiple car issues. I set out the Friday before Thanskgiving in my infamous 1978 SAAB Turbo to first spend a few days in the Bay Area. Almost exactly halfway on I-5 (near Avenal) the transmission ground itself into a puddle of metal. My friend Jim and I hitched into Avenal for the night, and the next morning called the Auto Club. They sent a flatbed to haul it back to an L.A. SAAB dealer ($450), dropping us in Bakersfield on the way where we got a one day car rental to resume the trip.

Once in Lafayette with my friend's family we used BART for a couple of days to play in a SF national bridge tournament, then their family wagon to go to Napa Valley on Tuesday and ski at Squaw Wednesday. At the end of the ski day the wagon would not start, just as a Sierra storm was approaching. We had the wagon towed to a gas station in Tahoe City and got a motel for the night. The car was repaired in the morning at special Thanksgiving day rates. Then we crawled over Donner Summit in chains in the blizzard and barely made it to Lafayette for Thanksgiving dinner. At least we were westbound. The eastbound traffic that day into Tahoe took 7 hours from Sacramento. FYI most of my worst snow driving experiences have been around Tahoe.

On Friday we rented another one way car, some kind of small Ford wagon (Fiesta maybe), and drove back up route 50 through South Tahoe to Mammoth. Near the top of Kingsbury grade this car also stopped running. We pushed it over the crest and it fortunately roll started on the downgrade. We were relieved to get to Mammoth Friday night and left the car rental alone where we were staying through another storm Saturday. When it was time to go home after Sunday skiing the car wouldn't start. My friend Lance with whom we were staying at Mammoth got it going after spraying the carburetor for about half an hour.
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A car slowed in front of me on a forested 2 lane part of 101. I passed on his left but the reason he slowed was to make a left turn without signaling onto his rural driveway
Was it determined that the driver was at fault? How much did it cost to fix all that body damage?
They assigned me 80% blame: it was only my word that he didn't signal.

Cayenne repairs are not cheap. There have been 3 accidents; all have been in the $10K range to repair. The other two (both in the snow) looked like minor fender benders but appearances can be deceiving.
Well heck, if you want to go down that path... here's one I actually have pictures of, though granted a long time ago. And this was accomplished on a short little jaunt of 45 minutes to go skiing...

With some of the occupants (me in red & blue jacket). No injuries beyond bruises.
Yikes - these crashes look a bit substantial.

I have luckily avoided major accidents - only bounced off a snowbank or two on icy side streets with no damage. Scariest was pulling a 360 in my Jeep Cherokee and driving out of it on US-50 near Echo Summit.
pulling a 360 in my Jeep Cherokee and driving out of it
In the early 00s, I did that on the Thruway coming back from the Catskills during a major dump, although I had a far less capable car: a 1987 Chevrolet Celebrity with no snow tires! My wife thought we were going to die and couldn't believe that I pulled out of it smoothly. I credited lots of practice on unplowed roads while growing up in CNY during the 70s ("don't freak out and always steer into the skid").
My best powder day in 2021 ended with a crazy scare caused by a clueless snowplow driver.

Skip ahead to the end (Epilogue) if you don't want to read about a mid-week powder day at Plattekill:

crazy scare caused by a clueless snowplow driver.
That's impressive.

I have way more 'horror' stories of driving to/from skiing than I think folks would ever read. It just goes with the territory of being a ski racer IMO. Destroyed vehicles, white knuckled craziness, blizzards, the list is very long. And Ironically I'm one of the safer drivers I know. Shit just seems to happen sometimes since I'm on the road a lot during bad weather.
Sometimes in the east, when it snows in the mountains, it snows in the flatlands too. Sometimes, I have to drive through it.
Yes, even after 45+ years of skiing, I have no illusions that I'm anywhere near as capable of driving in snow as the avid easterners. One of the issues is that unless you live in a ski resort, we Californians are always driving with all season rather than snow tires (likely factor in the other two Cayenne accidents). And even on those big road trips most of the long distance driving is in Great Basin type high desert. Rarely am I driving in severe snowy weather outside of a 20-30 mile radius of a ski area.

I'd say jimk has been very lucky with his road trips. Or perhaps he avoids being exposed to long distances with bad road/weather conditions. That should be relatively easy to do with retiree flexibility.
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I have no illusions that I'm anywhere near as capable of driving in snow as the avid easterners.
I've mentioned previously -- after moving to the Front Range in 1982, I quickly realised that a significant part of the population there had no idea how to drive in snow. I didn't understand given the proximity of the mountains. Even when a relatively small amount fell in the Denver metro area, like five or six inches, you'd see cars ditched all over the place. One time, while driving from Boulder past Rocky Flats to get to I-70, there must've been 50 cars stuck.

The explanation was always a variation of "oh, those are people who've moved here from Kansas or Texas." That was back during the days with the "NATIVE" bumper stickers.

Even when a relatively small amount fell in the Denver metro area, like five or six inches, you'd see cars ditched all over the place.
You can only imagine the carnage in new snow at Baldy, Wrightwood, etc. from the snowplayers in SoCal. My friend Steve and I were newbie skiers back in 1978. We were in his 280Z, got stuck on the Lucerne Valley road into Big Bear, left the car on the shoulder, hitched to Snow Summit to ski the day, spent the night up there with friends and retrieved the car on the way out the next morning.
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The explanation was always a variation of "oh, those are people who've moved here from Kansas or Texas." That was back during the days with the "NATIVE" bumper stickers.
Plenty of those stickers still around here, along with "native" license plates now too. Though they are significantly less % wise for obvious reasons.

I'd say most native front rangers are mediocre drivers in snow unless they are diehard skiers which can make them OK-ish. Cali, Texas, Oklahoma, etc... are the worst of the worst in snow. Midwesterners and Easterners transplanted here are significantly above the rest in snow driving due to that whole it-snows-at-ALL-elevations thing in those regions. Which is sort of true; multiple of my bad driving days back east though were where it DIDn't snow at all elevations. So, 34 degree rain turning to ice at slightly higher hill elevations, etc... Now that makes for white knuckles.
Seattle drivers could not handle snow.

At work, we would have 1-2 snow days per winter. Employees would not come in with 2+inches on the ground.

However, those were the days Alpental would have light powder vs. Cascade Concrete. Just another 20 minutes up the road from my office in Issaquah.
This image inspired me to write White Knuckle Storm Chasing:


Basically when the Adks are in the wheelhouse, odds are good I'm driving in some nasty $hit.

Totally forgot about this too, more recent:


That storm was pure gold at Gore, and hell to get to.

Major sleet storm. Then, up nearly 1000 vert on my road in 8 inches of unplowed, I can't believe I made it.

Decided not to push my luck, left the car at the bottom of our hill. My driveway, the steepest part, is (was) the only place I feel like I really need snows.


Spending a bundle this summer to re-route the driveway to make it more gradual. (Bought the property next door to make that possible.)
I had a few... in no particular order:

Dec 2015?: My Sentra meet a moose on a dark and snowy road in a remote part of Maine on my way from a ski camp at Sunday River.
Sep 2016: Flat tire with snow chains on a nasty gravel mountain road coming back down from Ohau. Road : narrow 1.5 lane à la Coyote-Road Runner cartoon on a mountain side with flat tire being on the side of the cliff. No guardrails of course. Drove back to the valley with a tiny donut tire and drive back to my destination 350km away. Plus another 200km and a skiing detour at Mt. Hutt to drop the car in Christchurch the following day.
Sep 2009: Have every thing stolen by a cab in Buenos Aires on the eve of my return from South America. Worst part? 26 rolls of films in Los Penintentes, Medoza and Las Lenas lost forever.
Winter 1985: Going to Tremblant. Passenger car window mechanism break when open to pay the toll on the Laurentians Autoroute. Return to Montreal and didn't ski.
Jan 1990? Back window shattered in millions pieces (I'm sitting in the backseat) and fall out on the Autoroute on our way back from training camp.
I can also think of 2 tire blowouts back in the 1990s and early 2000s.
I'd forgotten about this road-trip misadventure until I bumped the Sun Valley thread the other day, where I mentioned it --

During my visit to the Maritime Alps of France in 2016, Day 5 was a non-skiing tourism day where I visited a cliffside village, checked out wild boars, and had a tasting and tour at a local craft brewery. A few minutes after departing, the oil light on my car started blinking and within half an hour, the engine started making ominous noises so I bailed to a supermarket parking lot before it seized. Luckily, my guide from the local tourism office who'd accompanied me to all the local sights wasn't far away so he drove me to my final stop of the trip, Val d'Allos. That was the only time in my life that a rental car malfunctioned.

Since there was sufficient local transportation inside the resort with buses, I didn't request that the rental agency send me a different car. Rather, they paid for a taxi to take me back to the airport in Nice for my flight home: a 2.5-hour drive. Instead of negotiating a flat price, the meter in the taxi was running the entire time. If I remember correctly, it ended up more than 300 euros! The upside was that I had a pleasant driver who provided informative commentary of the region and I was able to view the beautiful scenery going by without worrying about keeping my eye on the road.

I assume that she had the meter running for the entire drive back as well: thus, a more than 600-euro day for her, minus gas expenses.
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