a VirtualTourist member from Melbourne asked on Feb 2, 2008
looking at doing a road trip through the states and into canada. Would love to be amongst the snow, but want to avoid road closures, or the need of chains. I was wondering what time of year is best to do this? As I am inquiring from australia, please give a month period, rather than season.
They entire country can be affected by winter conditions, but various places are more common and therefore more apt to be able to clear and maintain roads.
A place like Saskatchewan is relatively a flat agricultural state with low population density. That is probably the worst to drive through... cold, wind swept and less help nearby if you have troubles.
However if you stick to major road ways, in all honestly except for the freak blizzard, the road conditions are good throughout the year.
Have you driven in the snow before? In the US and Canada, most winter roads require either chains 'or' snow tires. If you pick up a rental car, you may likely pay more, but can request a 4x4 with snow tires.
Your bit about 'avoid road closures', that is totally weather dependant. If you travel in the winter in the top half of North America, there will sometimes be snow storms. If you happen to be in the middle of a winter storm, it is better to get off the highways. If we had a way to predict when exactly those storms will occur we would be rich.
As a person who spent the first 30 years of their life in Saskatchewan, I have a different perspective on the province. Saskatchewan is one of the coldest provinces in the country, traditionally from early December through the end of January is when you can expect the coldest periods with the most snow. The highways department there works diligently to sand and clear roads during and after storms. Statistically speaking, you are most likely to have someone pull over & help you out in Saskatchewan than in any other province in the country.
If you plan to travel through Saskatchewan in the winter, by all means stick to the major highways. Stay off the roads (or get off as soon as possible) if a storm comes up. Keep your speed down. Try to always have at least 1/2 a tank of fuel, in case you do get stuck & have to run your car to stay warm until help arrives. Carry warm clothing and a cell phone.
I'm actually not sure if tire chains are even allowed on the highways in Sask, but they are not a requirement - ever - and I certainly don't know anyone who has ever used them on a passenger vehicle in that province. A four wheel drive vehicle can be helpful in snow, but keep in mind they offer no advantage when driving on ice. Don't let the fact that you are in a 4x4 give you a false sense of security.
Having said all of that, if you'd like to see snow in Canada, you can do that in any province during the winter months (roughly November through mid-April in most provinces) I would be most inclined to opt for late November or late March since this would give you the best chance at civilized winter temperatures. But keep in mind that there are no guarantees with weather. You could travel in Canada in November and not see a single snowflake. Or it could be the coldest month on record. Have you had a look at the Weather Underground website? It allows you to see historical weather averages for almost any place you are considering travelling to.
Click on the "planner" link to get to the right spot for the historical info.
I hope that helps.
I would have to totally agree with Camping Girl's comments! Although Saskatchewan can be very cold in the winter months, the snow accumulation seems to be mostly blown away by winds, so the main roads are usually in great shape unless you are in the midst of a sudden blizzard. As for the tire 'chains', I've never seen anyone use them in decades.