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British Columbia visit

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all,

We're regular fly-drive visitors to the Alps but have just booked flights to visit my wife's cousin in Kamloops in a few weeks. We're hoping to have a couple of days at both Sun Peaks and Whistler while there (ideally towards the end of the visit once over the jetlag!).

So far I have flights to Vancouver and a hire car booked for the Vancouver -> Kamloops -> Whistler -> Vancouver drive. We don't mind a drive, get to see some of the countryside, but what's the deal with tyres and chains etc there? I see you need M+S tyres minimum for most of the highways. But is that enough for getting to the two resorts?

And is there anything else we should be doing? Got our eTAs sorted for entry but will just a UK driving license be enough for the car hire?

Thanks in advance!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I've done a fair bit of driving in BC in both hire cars and my own car with snows on and never fitted chains. Maybe if you go over 99 through Lillooett back to Whistler in a big storm the road might be less plowed.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Same as DOTM, hired and driven many times in BC, never fitted chains although always hire a 4x4 - cars should be fitted with leagal tyres for winter driving.
UK licence will be fine, and you wont need a code either, just a credit card in the main drivers name - with plenty of credit on it wink
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Perfect thanks Smile We have the luxury of picking our days for travel and skiing while there so will be doing everything with one eye on the forecast and conditions. We were planning on heading to whistler via the 99 if clear or back down to Vancouver and up if not.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
No problem with driving licence and we have never needed chains in many many years of visiting BC. If you would need chains you wont be going anywhere, they are very good at getting and keeping the roads clear, when they cant the roads are impassable in our experience. If there has been snow it would be best to stick to the Vancouver Whistler route. They are both wonderful drives but the main highways are better maintained in poor weather.
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Seconded that the Vancouver-Whistler road is excellent and a very beautiful drive. 4x4 with winter tyres seemed to be the way forward that we saw.
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
They cam only provide legal cars these days, so no problem. If you ask for "winter tyres" (which are a different thing, they will think you're stupid Americans and charge you for that if they have them, but you don't need them. Don't sweat it, take what they give you. You don't need chains: I've never seen any one other than truckers (who are legally required to use them) chain-up in 30 seasons driving around that loop multiple times a season. I've never hired a 4x4 although you can of course do that. M&S are fine; if the highway's closed (rare), then it's closed and having more gear won't change that, you just have to wait a bit until it's open.

Note you have two ways to do that route - the Coquihalla or the Duffy Lake Road. The difference is that the Coq has big trucks and high speed and often snow, where as the Duffy Lake is quiet but is more twisty. From a "driving in snowy conditions" I don't find a lot of difference. Mostly I use the Coq, but I prefer the Duffy if I'm going via Whistler as it's more direct and has less risk of chips in the windshield (replacements are about $250 so not worth insuring against). I'd make a loop of it. Note that there are no reasonable restaurants between the locations you mention. The bit of road from Whistler down to Vancouver is the easiest you'll encounter (other than the bit along the US border). It does get a lot of tourist traffic and sometimes gets closed briefly, but never for very long. I would not stress about it at all. Most people who drive up there never go any further north. Expect to have to pay to park your car in Whistler.

You need your UK driving license and you maybe want to pick up the UK driving people's code which hire companies are supposed to ask for but which in my experience almost never do. I usually take a "stick on" windscreen mount for my phone and pre-load Google Maps with the BC maps for offline use. Sometimes hire cars have sat nav, but if they don't, I don't want to pay for it.

In winter conditions it's about 2 hours from YVR to Hope, then 2 more up to Kamloops. Sun Peaks is 30 minutes from there up Highway 5. If you're in Kamloops them it's entirely possible to do "the resort" for days - that's mostly what I do because there didn't use to be a resort and I kind of got used to it. If you stay in Kamloops you can also hit up Silver Star easily for a day now and then.

Depending on precisely when you're there Brackendale (on the Sea-to-Sky between Vancouver and Whistler) has some good Eagle watching opportunities.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Thanks @philwig, that's really helpful. So a standard rental from Vancouver airport will have the right M+S tyres on to do the full loop?

I've usually done the same with Google Maps offline and my phone holder while in the Alps, and always take my licence code but have never been asked for it. Will still take it just in case, as I know the one time I don't, I'll be asked.

Getting excited now, thanks all for your input! Smile
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plasmastorm,

Err, no... I think a standard rental will include all season tyres (which aren't M+S) Confused
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@plasmastorm, avis are undoubtedly the best rental co at the airport, every standard suv ive rented has been equipped with proper winter tyres and in new condition , some of the cheaper options like thirty and Alamo are not so good , but can also recommend enterprise as an alternative just involves a free shuttle to the pick up location
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@Bergmeister, ah ok, how do I go about making sure I get M+S? Give them a ring?


Last edited by snowHeads are a friendly bunch. on Sun 3-02-19 21:05; edited 1 time in total
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@Dabber, thanks, I have plenty of Enterprise Plus points to spend and was hoping to book with them. No issue with taking a shuttle to get there, looks like it's only just off the airport island.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Don't worry. Both times I've done a fly-drive skiing trip in January there the wagons came with tyres good enough to cope, if they hadn't we wouldn't have made it onto the freeway! They are used to cold weather in Canada! (& I mean cold!)
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Book a 4x4 and when you get to the airport tell the car hire people your driving up the coquihall. Here have a full suv with winter tyres madame.
We are at Sun Peaks at the moment (-26 and snowing and windy ) we have a GMC Yucon massive 4x4 suv thing. Ask your relative if they know any one with "buddy tickets" season pass holders get 3 each. +1 download maps on to phone.
Duffy lake road is nice just the Fraiser valley bit with the steep drop to the river and no barrier just before Lillooet gets me every time.
We stayed in Vancouver over night and flew to Kelowna in the morning picked up the car and drove here going to Silver Star and Big White as well.
Then back to Vancouver and up to Whistler. We normally drive all of it but last year was awful weather so we flew to and from Kelowna....
Don't eat the cinnamon buns (you will be spoiled for life) the sunburst cafe sells small cinnamon loafs as buns covered in cinnamon toffee.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@joneski, I read that so wrong...where on earth can I get my buns covered in cinnamon toffee...scrap that, where can I get Mrs G's buns covered in cinnamon toffee!
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Driving through BC now, can echo what everyones said. Just make sure its a 4wd car that is high off the ground, so suv or 4x4.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@gixxerniknik, ?? cinnamon buns!!! dont you watch bake off?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Bergmeister wrote:
plasmastorm,

Err, no... I think a standard rental will include all season tyres (which aren't M+S) Confused
Incorrect.
The law changed a few years ago. You internet people crack me up - it's not helpful posting "information" if you're just making it up.

Feel free to check - I regularly rent from YVR, which is why I was able to answer the question.
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philwig wrote:
Bergmeister wrote:
plasmastorm,

Err, no... I think a standard rental will include all season tyres (which aren't M+S) Confused
Incorrect.
The law changed a few years ago. You internet people crack me up - it's not helpful posting "information" if you're just making it up.

Feel free to check - I regularly rent from YVR, which is why I was able to answer the question.



All seasons are not necessarily m+s rated, and m+s rated are not necessarily winter rated tires.
The law change was to allow m+s tires on mountain highways as opposed to full winter rated tires - whether that was a good change is a matter of opinion...
Oh and I got my truck out of shape a bit on the sea to sky yesterday driving on some invisible ice on full winter tires on a road I drive all the time, so best not be complacent.
Personally I'd never even drive up the sea to sky in winter without real Cool winter tires, and as (correctly) noted, that is likely to be the tamest part

But I'm just another "internet person", so heh... wink
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
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OP said he has the luxury of picking his travel dates. And as mentioned, rental agency can’t give you cars that are not legal.

I think you people just make a big deal out of nothing. All season awd will do just fine. Being sensible is far more important than obsessing about equipments.

I have winter tire on my awd car. But I still don’t go driving over some mountain passes when a storm is dumping feet of snow. I wait till the storm passes and allow some extra time for the plow to clear the roads (and to pluck all the SUVs out of the ditch along the highway)
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@plasmastorm, yep , enterprise is a short free shuttle away , and has very good quality stock , the extra room and comfort of a standard suv i.e. jeep grand cherroke is well worth it if doing a bit of travelling around , as stated above the tyres will be legal and upto the job in most BC conditions and if its really rough likely the road will be closed , just book another night and wait for the roads to clear , which is done very well in canada .
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
abc wrote:
OP said he has the luxury of picking his travel dates. And as mentioned, rental agency can’t give you cars that are not legal.

I think you people just make a big deal out of nothing. All season awd will do just fine. Being sensible is far more important than obsessing about equipments.

I have winter tire on my awd car. But I still don’t go driving over some mountain passes when a storm is dumping feet of snow. I wait till the storm passes and allow some extra time for the plow to clear the roads (and to pluck all the SUVs out of the ditch along the highway)


rolling eyes
They can give you a car that is completely legal to drive round the lower mainland, which probably a large number of people only do, but that doesn't necessarily make it legal to drive on a mountain highway.
And yes I have been in a car hire place in Kelowna that tried to give me a car with m+s tires when winter rated tires were required on mountain highways, and yes they said I would be fine in Kelowna (which was true), unfortunately I was driving to Revelstoke. Sad
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I just rang Enterprise at the airport to double check. All their tyres are M+S or better, all their cars are suitable for the highways.

No idea if that's the same with all companies but this appears to be sorted for my trip anyway Smile

Thanks for all your input folks!
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plasmastorm wrote:
I just rang Enterprise at the airport to double check. All their tyres are M+S or better, all their cars are suitable for the highways.

That was the typical answers I got from most companies (at least the "majors": Avis, Hertz, Budget).

More interestingly, a lot of company will try to "up sell" their cars by asking "Are you just driving around town? Or are you taking them out of state/province?". If you answer yes I'm taking them far away, then they try to get you to "upgrade" to a larger ("better") car for more $$. That's the time I ask if the SUV are actually AWD, and the tires are legal to go where I need to (e.g. in Quebec, winter tires are required). But I've never ran into a case where the car they "planned for me" were not. So I kept the car I booked, and the extra money safely stays in my pocket.
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Get an AWD rental car, which will be easier than in Europe. It'll have legal & adequate tires, its Canada. Chains very rarely needed where you're going. Both drives are beautiful and not difficult, though the drive to Kamloops can put you in the white stuff for a few hours if you are lucky (and its a little more relaxed with AWD). It sounds like your time is somewhat limited, but if you have the time and if you like steep blacks, when you are in Kamloops take a day trip to Silver Star. And +1 on the cinnamon buns.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
I find enterprise to be the best for proper tires. I would say you need them. I would ask the right questions and no assume anything.

Especially on the coq (which can be bad at times) and between Kamloops and Whistler.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
I think we all know rental car desks are masters of cowdoo -they'll try anything from that engine won't work at altitude to the Fiat 500 is a mid-sized car to you're not allowed in the mountains without a full sized 4x4. Stick to your guns on what you've booked - inspect it to confirm to yourself that tyres are up to scratch - snowflake symbols, sipes good; nonamium brands, high wear bad.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
If you've hired a fiat 500 to drive in BC in the winter then somethings not right.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Watch out for towns. We had a car with M+S and got over some tricky passes including Rogers and the one from Fernie to Rossland and Nelson to Revelstoke by using gear related breaking and being sensible. biggest issues were driving around small towns as highways are generally good even in small storms. However towns aren’t cleared as quickly and can be super icy. Did a 270 degree spin in supermarket car park but luckily missed hitting anything. Also spun a bit turning a slow left at traffic lights on a side road
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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I take issue with your post Dave of the Marmottes, we have hired cars in Canada every year for over 20 years and we have never been offered a smaller car, in fact trying to get a small car can be quite difficult. Most times we book a small car and get upgraded for nothing to a larger one and pretty well always we are offered a bigger car upgrade at a very modst cost if we want it (which we never do). The smaller cars in Canada tend to be what we would regard as mid size. Plasmastorm you said in your origianal post you were going "in a few weeks" I wonder how many is "a few". By March while there could well still be storms the underlying temperature is tending to rise and the roads will clear/be cleared very quickly if there is new snow. Stick with the main roads and you will absolutely fine with a vehicle from Enterprise or another "big name". Our experience with the car hire companies in Canada is that they are extremely helpful and cheerful.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@FFIRMIN, we're booked for the end of Feb, start of March.

Really looking forward to cinnamon buns now!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
wink yeah, I always book the smallest car, they always try to up-sell me, then give me some huge thing anyway, because they never have the tiny cars available in practice.

But they do generally try the up-sell game quite hard, to the extent of trying to scare me about road conditions about which I clearly know significantly more than they do.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
philwig,

I was on the end of the most disgraceful (failed) hard sell last year at Denver Airport; and a slightly less aggeessive attempt the year before that.

I'm fully prepared for the same again tomorrow but learned my lesson last year and will make sure its a short conversation this time.

I'm prepared for scare stories about the road conditions (involving 2 day old printouts showing an ice covered I-70 (when it was in fact clear), the unsuitability of the vehicle, the inadequate engine size at altitude, the legality (honestly! Very Happy ) of taking such a vehicle to the mountains, the inadequate tyres and the fact that only a 4 wheel drive upgrade would be suitable rolling eyes
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wink Sounds like the same sales person. Of course I suppose they all have the same incentive schemes.

Here are both the BC highway cams and also stuff about tyres etc.
http://images.drivebc.ca/bchighwaycam/pub/html/www/index-Northern.html

These are also the best place to look if you want to assess resort snowpack.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
FFIRMIN wrote:
I take issue with your post Dave of the Marmottes, we have hired cars in Canada every year for over 20 years and we have never been offered a smaller car

I've never been offer a SMALLER cars either.

In fact, I can only count one incident that I can remember a merchant offer something "smaller" and less expensive! It was in a restaurant. The waiter reminded us the dishes were quite large in portion and we may find it too much food for the 2 of us. We consider that good customer service! We went back to that restaurant every time we were in the area and recommended everyone we knew to patronizing that establishment. It also helped the food was quite good and the price reasonable to begin with.

But that was the only one incident so I remember it distinctly. Very Happy
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
I think we all know rental car desks are masters of cowdoo -they'll try anything from that engine won't work at altitude to the Fiat 500 is a mid-sized car to you're not allowed in the mountains without a full sized 4x4. Stick to your guns on what you've booked - inspect it to confirm to yourself that tyres are up to scratch - snowflake symbols, sipes good; nonamium brands, high wear bad.

I got exactly that a month ago! (In US instead of Canada) Toofy Grin

It was the first for me. Very Happy Usually I was in a hurry so never argue with them, "just say no". But this time, I decided to get some entertainment out of it. I asked "what do you mean by that?" I was disappointed that he didn't offer anything interesting other than it'll be slow to pass if I were going uphill. And he even admitted "it'll work, but not ideal". He's not going to make it as a conman I'm afraid. Cool
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Mid trip update:

We arrived in Vancouver and got a pickup truck with proper snowflake tyres from Enterprise. The roads are pretty clear so the drive up the Coquihalla to Kamloops was a thing of beauty in glorious blue skies and sunshine. In the last 30km we got hit by a wayward stone from a truck and now have a lovely crack in the windscreen. Fortunately insurance will cover it all, and I took it down to Enterprise in Kamloops who assure me it's still safe and fine to drive. And I've seen so many other cracked windscreens now I'm looking for them!

First day skiing at Sun Peaks yesterday and it was empty, no queues or busy pistes and again, glorious weather. The snow on piste was perfectly 'groomed' and great fun, but some of the blacks are icy mogul sheets. Not much powder but I'm skiing with Mrs Plasmastorm who is just progressing to pisted blacks so not really an issue.

Thanks again for all your help and tips.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@plasmastorm, proper Canadian now , F150 - cracked windscreen Toofy Grin have a great trip , most blacks don't get groomed so are always interesting with a lack of new snow
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Sun Peaks groom the single blacks twice a week on average, double blacks twice a season maybe.
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joneski wrote:
Sun Peaks groom the single blacks twice a week on average, double blacks twice a season maybe.


Is it really a double black if it is/can be groomed?
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