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Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

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Sydney, Australia
posts: 1
reviews: 1
Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

We want to drive from Vancouver to whistler then up to big white. Are the roads ok to do this we are planning January 2013. Would we need snow tires at minimum or would we need a 4wd?

Vancouver, Canada
posts: 15,905
reviews: 53
1. Re: Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

If you have good weather, then you will be fine in a car with snow tires. If the weather is bad, a 4WD won't help. The roads themselves are good, but I can't urge you strongly enough to delay your travel if the weather forecast is not favourable.

Penticton, Canada
posts: 5,571
reviews: 5
2. Re: Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

Hi

Snow tires are required in the mountains from Oct 01 to April

so you need to let the rental company in Vancouver know that you will be traveling in the mountains and that all season tires will not work.

the roads are either driveable or closed.

4wd is not required but works better. There is also AWD (all wheel drive) cars but not sure which rental co might have them.

The min should be front wheel drive - rear wheel drive to be avoided.

as for driving to Big White the best scenario is to drive back to Vancouver and then Highway 5 (The Coquihalla) http://goo.gl/maps/1E46V

there is also the Duthie Lake road but the conditions may not be suitable for winter driving http://goo.gl/maps/67kh4

for driving conditions

…drivebc.ca/bchighwaycam/pub/html/www/index-…

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
posts: 36,804
reviews: 54
3. Re: Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

Could I sneak in here to say that autocorrect is not correct! it is Duffey Lake Road between Pemberton and Lillooet.

Have you had any winter driving experience in the mountains, Tracey? If not and you have never driven in snow, let alone in the mountains, this is not the time to be learning how to in a rental car.

Here's a short video of the Duffey Lake Road on a winter day, might be sunny and dry or wet with rain:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEsk3SMUcEs

And the Coquihalla, same thing, could be sunny and dry, or wet with rain.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKo_YMs3hns

Vancouver, Canada
posts: 8,352
reviews: 52
4. Re: Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

I'm with Mufti, Tracey...if you haven't done a lot of driving in snow, particularly treacherous mountain driving...you might want to rethink. And, as I am sure you know....we drive on the right side of the road here, so you are going to have that to contend with as well. Safe than sorry...

Victoria, Canada
posts: 1,846
reviews: 70
5. Re: Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

Hey Tracey, the Vancouver to Whistler route is extremely well maintained through the winter months road wise. The snow ploughs and sanding trucks are on top of taking care of the roads if and when the snow falls.

However, for getting to Big White I would suggest you go back down to Vancouver and take the Coquihalla route to Big White.

I took the Duffie Lake Road route August 1st this year and while scenic the road is super windy and it SUCKED. There is NO cell phone coverage for 3 hours so you are on your own or rely on the kindness of strangers if you have problems. Highly advise not taking that route.

The Coquihalla is well travelled and maintained will double lanes each way.

Edited: 12:37 am, November 02, 2012
Vancouver
posts: 4
6. Re: Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

In the winter, it's typically faster to go from Whistler to Big White by going back through Vancouver. The Duffy Lake road is really windy and you have to go slow especially if there is ice. And if there is anyone else traveling along that road, you will have to go their speed because there are no dedicated passing lanes on that road. And believe me you don't want to try to pass someone on the Duffy Lake road in the winter!!! (windy + icy road + try to pass = nasty).

If the weather is bad even the locals will stay at hone and try to avoid that road unless it's an emergency.

Let me put it to you in another way, in the summertime the max speed is 60km/h.

Also, as Victoriabound stated, the no cell phone coverage really sucks.

Finally, the most important takeaway is that you NEED snow tires. The problem here in BC is that a lot of rental companies do not provide rental cars with snow tires. Please do your research and find one that does. Another important thing to ask is what brand of snow tires does the rental company provide? Some rental companies may try to equip their rental cars with cheap snow tires that don't perform as well in the snow as a quality snow tire.

West Grey, Ontario
Destination Expert
for Toronto, TripAdvisor Support
posts: 57,694
reviews: 71
7. Re: Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

Hi Tracey243;

Driving in the winter takes genuine experience. Without considerable winter driving experience I would NOT suggest starting to learn how to drive in winter conditions in an unfamiliar rental car, in an unfamiliar area.

It is my opinion that operating a 4x4, without genuine winter driving experience, usually gets a driver into MORE trouble as a 4x4 provides a false sense of security, which causes the driver to become over confident.

4 wheel drives, even all wheel drives, will only help you when trying to get unstuck, which is a situation you want to avoid in the first place. Plus, SUVs / 4x4 are heavier than a car. The extra weight causes extra momentum, which makes them harder to stop !

I would suggest reading the Traveller Article "Winter Driving in Canada", here on TA.

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g153339-c55003/Canada…

Best Regards

Rockies BC
posts: 684
reviews: 5
8. Re: Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

Fly to Big White. I live in the Kootenays & will not drive to Vanc between Thanksgiving (2nd week of Oct) & April/Easter(whichever is later) as the roads can be extremely nasty. The Coq may be better than the Duffey Lake Rd but it can be very very nasty as well - Mufti, do you have a link to a youtube video of the Coq in winter?

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for Vancouver
posts: 36,804
reviews: 54
9. Re: Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

post #3.

Niagara
posts: 1,660
reviews: 21
10. Re: Drive from Vancouver to big white.... Would we need a 4wd?

I would avoid the Duffiey Lake Road in the winter. Notice in the video in post#3 the drop-offs at the sides with no guiderails to keep you on the road.

http://youtu.be/XEsk3SMUcEs