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  1. Default Driving from Portland, Oregon to Woostock, New York Decenber 1st.-Best Winter Route?

    Hi, I find myself having to drive from Portland, OR. to Woodstock, NY at the end of the month. I'm checking out routes and I must say I am a little nervous crossing Montana in December. Should I perhaps travel a little (a lot, really) south to California and go across that way?

    Anyone out there who has any suggestions, I would really appreciate it, thank you!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default best = direct

    Winter travel always involves keeping an eye on the forecast, which you won't know until right before you leave, but in general going direct will be your best bet the vast majority of the time.

    In your specific case, going south to California is a particularly bad idea. It involves going over more mountain passes - both along both I-5 in Oregon/California, and again as you head across the Rockies. It doesn't improve your odds of seeing good weather as I-40 frequently sees snow/ice and even I-10 can and does see winter weather. And all of that, you'll be adding nearly 1000 extra miles, so you'd need to be on the road for 2 more full days - which is 2 more days where you could get caught in a storm!

    As far as Montana goes, I-90 actually has some of the lowest passes and lowest overall elevations of any cross country route (lower than I-40 through AZ and NM), and it also has some of the best plow crews in the country - so if you do hit a storm, it should be cleared and passable relatively quickly.

    However, if as you leave it does look like you will see a good storm in Montana, you'd also have the option of taking I-84 to I-80 in Utah and take that across. The I-90 and I-80 options are nearly identical in distance, so you shouldn't see a significant difference in travel times.

    This is a 3000 mile trip, that you should plan to spend 6 days on the road for (you can do it in 5 if you hit good weather, but that extra day gives you some margin), and even in the worse case and you do hit a storm and you have to sit in a hotel for a day or even two, you're still better off than if you'd traveled all the way down to Southern California where you'd need at least 8 days on the road, and could still need more time if you hit bad weather.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    Note that if you are looking at the I-80 option, it goes over 7000 feet in Wyoming, and there's a stretch there that is subject to high winds, blowing snow, and black ice. If it gets that bad, they generally close the road till the storm stops and they can clear the road. You do need to keep abreast of conditions all the way across in the winter and be prepared to change your routing and/or wait things out.

    Suggestion to avoid the Seattle area and a significant mountain pass if you choose the I-90 option - take I-84 out of Portland to I-82 to US-395. Go through Kennewick and Pasco and follow 395 to I-90.

    My mapping program suggests that the I-80 option is the fastest, but only by about 1 hour.

  4. #4

    Default Fear not I-90 in MT

    Hello lorene,

    As stated herein, the passes in MT are lower than those in WY (I-80), CO (I-70) and NM (I-40). The preponderance of I-90 in MT is at or below 4,000', as contrasted with virtually all of I-80 in WY being > 6,000', with the summit between Laramie and Cheyenne pushing 8,000', actually. The difference in elevation means much more than the few hundred miles of latitude. Highly localized conditions can alter the general rule, however.

    I'd spend some of the next 3 weeks looking at the live webcams operated by the MT and the ID DOT. Pay particular attention to the weather conditions and look at the cams during and after snow passes. It's simply amazing how quickly the roads are cleared, and often a front with much snow passes and the roads never become covered--the plows run 24/7 and only very heavy bursts of snowfall will cover and close an Interstate. Particularly in MT, only the passes close with some frequency, and then only for a handful of hours at a time, generally speaking.

    All in all, I'd be tempted to head up to I-90 and avoid the higher elevations in WY on I-80.


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