Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass Winter Safety
Posted by Amanda Schauer | Thursday, December 12, 2019

Snow has come to Cle Elum and while we are all happy about the flurries of white flakes all around us, it can also lead to less-than-desirable driving conditions. Even for people that are used to driving in the snow, each year seems to bring new challenges. This is why it is so important to take precautions when driving over Snoqualmie or Stevens Pass this winter. We want all of our guests to arrive to their homes safely!

Preparing Your Car

Anyone who is planning on driving over in a front-wheel-drive or a back-wheel drive, be sure to get some chains. Les Schwab Tires will sell winter chains to you and if you end up not using them at the end of the winter season, you can return them. Practice putting the chains on and taking the chains off your car before you start your trip! On that note, be sure to pack water-repellant gloves in your car in case you need to put chains on. There is nothing worse than feeling your fingers freeze off because you have to put chains on and you forgot gloves.

All-Wheel-Drive vehicles or 4-wheel drive vehicles can be improved with a set of snow tires or studded tires. DO NOT use chains on an All-Wheel-Drive vehicle without consulting the Owner’s Manual of your vehicle. Some AWD vehicles are ok with chains, on others, chains can cause damage to your car. For the vehicles that cannot accommodate chains, please see the list of WSP-approved “alternative traction devices” to stay as safe as possible. Be sure to carry chains or an alternative traction device as a precaution. According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, “Studded tires do not satisfy state chain requirements. If chains are required on your vehicle, you'll have to install them even on studded tires.”

Be sure to check the Washington State Department of Transportation website for any travel alerts or recommendations before you get started on your trip. You can see the current snow conditions from the pass cameras and whether chains are currently required. You can see Snoqualmie Pass’ conditions here and Steven Pass’ conditions here.

Before your trip, consider packing an emergency bag with extra blankets, a roll of toilet paper, and some snacks. It’s never a bad idea to be too prepared.

Driving Over the Pass

Snoqualmie and Stevens pass are very popular, which means that there is a high priority in keeping the passes safe for travelers. If the pass is open, the pass is safe to drive over. Just as long as you follow the requirements of the road. Both passes will have up-to-date vehicle requirements that will let travelers know if chains are required. There are two types of notices that will ask drivers to put on chains. “Chains Required” and “Chains Required on all vehicles”. 4WD or AWD vehicles that are under 10,000 pounds do not need to install chains during “Chains Required”. They will be required to install chains if conditions worsen to “Chains Required on all vehicles”. This is the last step before the pass is closed.

If you are required to put on chains during your trip over the pass, please pull to the side of the road on one of the designated chain-up and chain-off areas. These areas will be indicated with signs as well as lots of semis putting chains on or off. You can also see a complete map of these areas here.

Be sure to leave plenty of room between you and the person in front of you, even if you have a 4WD or AWD vehicle. AWD and 4-Wheel drive vehicles are great for getting from point A to point B, but not better at stopping than a front-wheel drive vehicle. It’s all-wheel-drive, not all-wheel stop.

Make sure to take all the necessary safety precautions. We want our guests to arrive to our homes safely so that they can have a great trip.

For more great information on winter driving tips in Washington State, please see the Washington State Department of Transportation website where you can find more information including a Winter driving guide, winter driving checklist, and more!

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