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Old 11-02-2018, 12:52 PM   #1
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Newbie needs advice: Travelling Snoqualmie Pass (WA) in November with Trailer

Hello! First post on this forum, so bear with me.

My family would like to spend Thanksgiving in Winthrop, because of the great-looking Thanksgiving and fall activities the town appears to offer. We will be travelling from Tacoma area. We are BRAND-NEW RV Owners, and I wanted to know if anyone could advise me about travelling across Snoqualmie Pass in November with our 24' Travel Trailer. Is it safe? If so, do I need to get snow chains for the trailer also? Any advice welcome.

Additionally, if Snoqualmie appears to be a bad idea, then could anyone offer a place west of the pass that has a small-town feel with Thanksgiving and fall ambiance? I really appreciate all of the help!
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Old 11-02-2018, 02:24 PM   #2
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For the pass, chains are required in the tow vehicle. If conditions demand, they may be required to mount on the drive tires of the tow vehicle. No chains required for the trailer.

Nice thing about having an RV, if conditions get bad, you can shelter in your RV until conditions (and chain requirements) go away.

Pay attention to the pass conditions: WSDOT - Snoqualmie Pass Road & Weather Conditions

and weather reports.
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Old 11-02-2018, 03:42 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BFlinn181 View Post


For the pass, chains are required in the tow vehicle. If conditions demand, they may be required to mount on the drive tires of the tow vehicle. No chains required for the trailer.

Nice thing about having an RV, if conditions get bad, you can shelter in your RV until conditions (and chain requirements) go away.

Pay attention to the pass conditions: WSDOT - Snoqualmie Pass Road & Weather Conditions

and weather reports.
It is a little confusing but on the Washington State DOT website they provide the following FAQ regarding chains:

WSDOT FAQ

In the "Chains" section of the FAQ the 5th bullet item specifically addresses chain requirements for non-commercial vehicles towing a trailer. What is confusing is when you click on the "chain requirements" link in that bullet item it takes you to a page for commercial vehicles. When we got our travel trailer back in 2015 I found this and was confused so I contacted the DOT. The clarification I got was that this paragraph, about 1/2 down the page, is intended for all vehicles, not just commercial vehicles:

"On the following routes all vehicles and combinations of vehicles over 10,000 pounds shall carry sufficient tire chains to meet the requirements from November 1 to April 1 of each year or at other times when chains are required for such vehicles:"

There is then a list of routes below the paragraph where this is applicable. As I recall the trailer chains only needed to be on one axle with brakes and are intended to improve the braking. Unfortunately at this point I can't locate the email I got back from them but it would be a lot less confusing if they were as clear as Oregon in stating their requirements. I looked those up as well since we are frequent travellers over both Washington and Oregon passes though only occasionally during the November-April time frame:

Light Duty Vehicles

Vehicles with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating of 10,000 pounds or less such as a passenger car or light truck.
Light duty vehicles must use chains on one tire on each side of the primary drive axle. When towing, chains must also be on one tire on each side of one axle of a trailer that is equipped with a brake. Traction tires may be used in place of chains when the vehicle is not towing or being towed.

What we do is if we have planned mountain pass travel with the trailer that falls within the dates listed is pick up a set of cable chains from Les Schwab for the trailer. If we need them to be in compliance then we have them. If we don't need them we return them in the spring for a full refund. While we have run into some snow on occasion it's never been enough for chains to be required.
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Old 11-03-2018, 08:41 AM   #4
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I'll make this easy for you: do not tow over the pass in snow or ice. Time your passage such that the roads are clear and dry, or at worst, wet. If you follow this advice, you'll have an easy passage over the pass.

The downside of this advice is that you can't count on the weather for any specific day meeting these requirements, so check the weather carefully and the road condition links others have posted above, and travel when conditions permit. Anything that puts you on the pass in conditions that put snow and/or ice on the road will, at best, be not fun at all. At worst, well, you probably already considered that.
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Old 11-03-2018, 08:58 AM   #5
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Oh, just go for it. As the Donner party said, "What could possibly go wrong?"
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Old 11-03-2018, 10:54 AM   #6
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I travel the pass often all year long. While there COULD be a snow event that time of year there usually is not. The ski area at the very top of the pass typically struggles to have enough snow to open by Thanksgiving. Add to that the return of "The Blob", a warm ocean event that suggests a mild, warm and wet winter and you probably will be dealing with rain rather than snow and ice. January might be a different story but November is often more wet than frozen.

Having said all that it could be snowy. You can get chains from the local Les Schwaab store and return them in spring for a small restocking fee if you do not need them. If you travel after 10 AM any overnight snow will have been plowed and sanded and should not be a problem.
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Old 11-03-2018, 11:08 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BFlinn181 View Post


For the pass, chains are required in the tow vehicle. If conditions demand, they may be required to mount on the drive tires of the tow vehicle. No chains required for the trailer.

Nice thing about having an RV, if conditions get bad, you can shelter in your RV until conditions (and chain requirements) go away.

Pay attention to the pass conditions: WSDOT - Snoqualmie Pass Road & Weather Conditions

and weather reports.
If the trailer has brakes you may need chains on the tires or a drag chain in addition to the tow vehicle chains.
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Old 11-03-2018, 11:20 AM   #8
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We traveled from Kelowna BC two winters ago in February, and wanted to get out to the coast. All the mountain passes were closed. We found they had webcams for all the passes that you could look up in real time. We never got to go over the pass, but found that ever pass we traveled had a webcam. Im not sure if the other links have it as well, but here is the one for the pass you are inquiring about. Cheers WSDOT - Mountain Pass Cameras
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Old 11-04-2018, 10:15 AM   #9
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Thank you all so much for the honest feedback! I think I will play it safe, at least until I am more familiar with towing the trailer. Being our first RV, I think perhaps I might be trying to push it. I am just very eager to get out in it, but I do not want to put a black cloud over our RV experience already, by having an unfortunate incident.

Everyone's advice has been invaluable. Thank you all again!
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Old 11-04-2018, 08:35 PM   #10
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I may be wrong, but honestly, Snoqualmie Pass, the main 4 lane east to west route in Washington won't be your problem... Highway 20, the 2 lane route that may possibly be closed a few miles up the road from Winthrop will be your problem.
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Old 11-09-2018, 04:55 PM   #11
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Have you considered Leavenworth instead? Probably a lot more expensive, but it's also easier to get to than Winthrop, that's for sure!
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Old 11-09-2018, 07:07 PM   #12
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For either Winthrop or Leavenworth, US 2 would be the better pass. Its 2 lane but with I90, you have Blewit Pass as well. Stevens Pass seems to have fewer closures than Snoqualmie even though it is 1,000 feet higher.

All of the comments on traction devices and weather still apply.

Have fun and stay safe.
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