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Renting a car in Colorado in winter

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I'm going to go skiing in the Rockies during Thanksgiving weekend (26 - 29 Nov) and I plan to rent a car from Denver airport. I will be driving on the notorious I-70. I have a couple of questions:

1. I am aware of Codes 15 & 16. Are all car rental companies at the airport compliant to code 15 (4WD or snow tires)?
2. Most rental car companies won't let me put snow chain on so what's the best solution if code 16 is effective? I can (1) buy snow chain for the journey (but going to be costly and seem wasteful - or I could potentially buy it, hope I won't use it and return it to get a refund); (2) just not drive if that happens. I might miss my flight but safety always comes first.

The reason I wanted to rent a car is that it will afford me the flexibility to ski in different resorts rather than being stuck in one. I am also able to benefit from the cheaper accommodation by staying away from the mountain.

If you have experience renting a car in CO, or any similar experience in renting a car in winter/snowy condition in general I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Hmm without being literate in codes 15 and 16, but having rented from DEN a fair number of times:

1. Absolutely not. And if you even ask about it you'll be given a huge upsell around 4wd, which in practice probably won't have snowflake rated tyres either. Your best chance is renting from a pick your own vehicle from a row outfit and choosing on the basis of best rubber.

2. Make your own grown up safety choices re chains? Bearing in mind risk of sliding off road/ crashing vs risk of being dinged for car damage.
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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?
I've never had an issue with Denver and I70 with car rentals across multiple winter trips over the years.
I doubt you could legally rent cars which could not be driven away from the lot. although it would be an interesting business idea.
You can google down the traffic laws.

As stated, they'll aggressively up-sell trans-arctic capable vehicles to you, if they have them.
You will need to turn these down more than once; the money is presumably mostly profit and the desk staff get a good slice I guess.

If the highway's closed, it's closed for everyone. When it's open, you don't need the trans-arctic thing just to drive to ski resorts.

I-70 [in my opinion] mostly notorious for lots of traffic.
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I've rented from DEN a couple of times and went for a big 4x4 with winter tires, mostly on the basis of cost. No chains, because like many rental companies worldwide, they fit wheels and tyres that can't take them (same at SFR for a drive up to Lake Tahoe after a business trip, and ditto at GVA). So don't assume you can get chains to fit or if you can, they they won't damage your 4x4. LAst time we went to Denver, it was a trip to Vail - we hit snowstorms as we got higher and no way could we have done it without the winter tires.

Sometimes I think a FWD with winter tires and chains would actually be a better bet than a 4x4 sans chains.

Although I have to say that last winter when we rented at GVA from Hertz we got uprated from a Fiesta to a new BMW 1 Series AWD plus chains. So perhaps the rental companies are getting the message that AWD shouldn't exclude chains.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
LaForet wrote:
I've rented from DEN a couple of times and went for a big 4x4 with winter tires, mostly on the basis of cost. No chains, because like many rental companies worldwide, they fit wheels and tyres that can't take them (same at SFR for a drive up to Lake Tahoe after a business trip, and ditto at GVA). So don't assume you can get chains to fit or if you can, they they won't damage your 4x4. LAst time we went to Denver, it was a trip to Vail - we hit snowstorms as we got higher and no way could we have done it without the winter tires.

I suspect those are "all season" tires, as I'm not aware of any rental company that rent with winter tires. At most, they're "all season" tires that will do fine on the well plowed I-70.

The one pitfall to avoid is SUV that are only 2WD. For the same price, you need to verify (when picking up the car) that it's actually all wheel drive.
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You'll need to Register first of course.
@euanovsky, depends on how long you'll be there. It maybe advisable to just go buy a set of chains to fit the car after you pick it up. It doesn't cost all that much and give you a lot more freedom to come and go.

That said, when it's snowing hard, you may or may not want to drive anyway. I-70 is notorious for having closure due to "flatlanders" causing accidents that block the entire highway for hours on end. Plan your trip before or after the peak of the storm, not during it. You want to be skiing the powder, not stuck sitting in the middle of the highway.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
@euanovsky, Snowsocks, not chains and try to rent a Subaru. There's a reason people who live west of Denver buy them, keep them and pass them down to their kids. I'll post about driving uphill from Denver when I stop for the night.
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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!
Subies are a rare sight in rental lots IME. Usual Chevy, Dodges, Fords, Nissans, and Hyundai/Kias in the FWD rows. The Koreans are usually not a bad bet because they often come with Hankook M+S tyres.

And of course fools trying to mug you off that a Fiat 500 is a compact/intermediate class vehicle.
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@Dave of the Marmottes, Denver rentals do have Subies but they do twist teh pocketbook teat . . . but to be honest it just pays to be weather aware for the time you're going. I think I've posted some advice on when to attempt I70 from the airport as it is a most heinous of roads at the best of times . . . like when entering the Eisenhower Tunnel on dry roads in bright sunshine and exiting in drizzle on polished ice with a stopping distance of the Armco at the bottom of the hill. wink
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Ski the Net with snowHeads
ZipCar have some Subaru Crosstreks available at the airport. They're in the Avis car rental lot. You can book a specific car. They'll come with the stock tires (Yokohama Geolandar 91F I think) which are M+S and not great in the snow but will get the job done. Dunno how it compares to a normal rental in terms of price but it does include fuel.
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Masque wrote:
@Dave of the Marmottes, Denver rentals do have Subies but they do twist teh pocketbook teat . . . but to be honest it just pays to be weather aware for the time you're going. I think I've posted some advice on when to attempt I70 from the airport as it is a most heinous of roads at the best of times . . . like when entering the Eisenhower Tunnel on dry roads in bright sunshine and exiting in drizzle on polished ice with a stopping distance of the Armco at the bottom of the hill. wink


Coming out of the tunnel toward Dillon with the mixture of kamikazee trucks and SUVs, and big rigs on a snowy surface is one of the most terrifying driving experiences in the US. Makes the curves on Vail pass feel like kindergarten. Mind you drive enough in winter and you can find hairy everywhere like windstorms on I80 in Evanston and Rock Springs area.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
driz wrote:
ZipCar have some Subaru Crosstreks available at the airport. They're in the Avis car rental lot. You can book a specific car. They'll come with the stock tires (Yokohama Geolandar 91F I think) which are M+S and not great in the snow but will get the job done. Dunno how it compares to a normal rental in terms of price but it does include fuel.


A thing to bear in mind, you're pretty high up there, and a Crosstrek isn't the most powerful car at the best of times
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