Check the weather and plan to avoid storms, traffic jams

By Devin Middlebrook

Winter at Tahoe means hot chocolate, crackling fires, snowball fights, and hitting the slopes. But it also means icy roads, chain controls, and weekend traffic. Follow a few simple tips to make your experience fun, safe, and congestion free all winter long.

Pick the right time to travel

Coming to Tahoe for a weekend ski trip? Friday rush hour has everyone driving up the hill. Leave a day early and cash in on cheaper hotel rooms. Midday Sunday is the busiest time to leave town and can add hours to your drive home.

Plan to leave at an off-time like early Sunday morning, late Sunday evening, or early Monday morning. Why sit in traffic when you could be skiing, shopping, or sitting by the fire?

Plan ahead and know what to carry

Safety is the No.1 concern when traveling to, from, and around Tahoe during winter months. Be prepared when you head out on the roads. Check the weather conditions before your trip and try to plan around any storms to avoid dangerous conditions. If you must travel on icy or snowy roads, make sure to always carry chains, a shovel, and emergency supplies, including food, water, and warm clothes. Know your driving ability and pull off the road if conditions become unsafe. Before heading out, check these great online resources for up-to-date information on travel time, construction, weather-related roadway restrictions, and more: or

Back roads may not be the safest choice

Everyone loves a shortcut. With apps like Waze and Google Maps, shortcuts around traffic are easy to find. What the app doesn’t show is that many local roads at Tahoe are steep and during winter weather may have rough road conditions and high snow levels. Remember that shortcuts generally run through neighborhoods and cause traffic jams that impact homeowners and their ability to leave the house on a busy weekend.

Walk and bike – some paths are plowed

If you need to make a short trip, or get around town on a perfect winter day, take your bike or walk. Did you know Meyers, the City of South Lake Tahoe, and the Tahoe City area clear bike paths all winter long? Last year, 25 miles of path were plowed. Feeling adventurous? Rent a fat tire bike and ride on top of the snow!

Ride the bus – around town or to the ski resort

The Lake Tahoe Region is famous for its world-class skiing and riding at 14 local resorts. When headed to the slopes, leave your car at home, avoid busy parking lots, and catch the bus. Not only are the buses convenient and heated, in many cases, they are free to ride. Check with your favorite ski resort for shuttle times and pick-up locations.

Public Transit:

South Shore:

North Shore:

Arriving by flight? Take a shuttle

Flying into Reno for your trip? Skip the car rental and catch a convenient shuttle from the airport on the North Lake Tahoe Express ( or South Tahoe Airporter (

Whether you drive, walk, bike, or take transit, remember that you have the power to make informed decisions. Stay safe and make your winter travel stress-free and fun by planning ahead, knowing your options, and coming prepared.

Devin Middlebrook is the sustainability program coordinator for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. (Article published in the Winter 2017 edition of Tahoe In Depth.)