One of the reasons I bought a 330xi is so I could drive to Tahoe without having to deal with snow chains. The prospect of fitting chains in sub-zero conditions at the side of the road at stupid o’clock is enough to make 4wd a must have for my daily driver. I’ve had a myriad of Subarus and to be honest, if I wanted an easy breakdown-free life I should have got another one but I fancied a bit of German this time round.
I made plans to head up to Tahoe just as one of the biggest storms of the winter hit the region. We left on Saturday night after two hours of hamfisted wrangling with the Thule roof rails and snowboard carrier that I picked up from REI. Once on the road we made excellent progress as we followed a break in the weather all the way only hitting chain controls 12 miles outside of South Lake Tahoe. The inbound journey was without drama and we got to the hotel around 11pm and celebrated with a wee dram of Lagavulin 12 year old which has become the signature drink of winter road trips.
Conditions on the mountain were sucky with hail, snow and wind making for miserable progress. The majority of the lifts were either closed or on wind hold and they closed the entire mountain at 2.30pm with no refunds after I’d only managed to get one decent run in. Factoring in lift tickets and snowboard rental the cost per mile of the whole escapade would put a first class airline ticket to shame!
There was one exciting near miss on the return journey. We left the resort and were merrily descending down a slight hill when I noticed the traffic slowing in front of me. I gently dabbed the brakes but the wheels locked and we started to slide down the hill aiming straight for the Chevy Suburban in front of me. I managed to regain control with some frantic cadence braking then steering the car into some rough snow that halted our progress quite rapidly.
With the extreme snow conditions we did consider staying another night but we spotted another break in the weather and made our way back after dinner. Chain controls were imposed almost immediately after leaving Tahoe and it took us almost two hours to cover 25 miles. I led a procession of traffic as no one had the nuts to overtake with speeds reaching a dizzy 25 mph in places! The snow cleared at about 4500ft elevation and after a driver swap we picked up the pace again and hit San Francisco around 11pm, total journey time about 4.5 hours.
Automotively this was a very successful Tahoe trip. Nothing fell off the car, I only almost crashed once and the heated seats and climate control kept the occupants very warm and toasty indeed whatever the conditions were outside.