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Thread: ALCAN in the winter?

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    Member agoyne's Avatar
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    Default ALCAN in the winter?

    The wife and I are planning out move to Soldotna this December during the kids Christmas break. I know its hard to predict weather, but for the most part it is passable? I have a 06' Toyota Tacoma 4WD. Thanks

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    I think I prefer the trip in the winter, not much traffic, no road construction, scenery is amazing. But you have to be prepared for winter travel. Help and fuel can be a long way in between. Your Tacoma will do fine, studded tires would be the way to go.

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    Quote Originally Posted by logman 49 View Post
    I think I prefer the trip in the winter, not much traffic, no road construction, scenery is amazing. But you have to be prepared for winter travel. Help and fuel can be a long way in between. Your Tacoma will do fine, studded tires would be the way to go.
    Yes open, yes do-able, and yes, go studded tires.

    Also carry at least 10 gal. gas in cans, never drive past an open gas station without filling up (less than half the gas stations are open during December), and I'd recommend going a little overboard by bringing the ability to overnight by the side of the road without dying of cold or hunger, even if your engine won't run. An extra spare tire isn't the worst idea either. A copy of the Milepost is also necessary.

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    I prefer to drive it in the winter. No crowds on the road and I think it is even smoother due to ice/snow filling in the holes and any soft spots are frozen. The last round trip I made I was suprised at how many gas stations were still open in November and the end of December. Don't count on them all though. Make sure to fill up as much as possible at the bigger towns as the prices will almost double in the podunk towns inbetween. The Milepost is great for figuring what towns have what along the way.

    Be prepared to be cold. The trip back up for me between Christmas and New Years averaged about -30F through Canada. The last day, I didn't see another car in either direction for just over an hour from starting, then didn't see the 2nd car for another hour after that. If you go off the road, you may not be found for a good while, so have enough food/gear IN THE CAB with you. People have been known to get stuck in their car because of the deep snow so don't count on getting into the back for whatever you have there.

    It will be dark most of the time that time of year. You might get 6 hours of daylight as you get south a ways, so plan on lots of night driving or more days. TONS of wildlife ON the roads. When you see signs saying "Bison on roadway", believe it. I have pictures of them literally sleeping on the highway. They know that you lose if you hit them and they won't get out of the way. In just a few hours in a single night near Llaird Hotsprings, I saw moose, deer, elk, and bison. I needed a soak in the hotsprings after that gauntlet.

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    Member agoyne's Avatar
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    Thank you guys for all of the helpful suggestions. I already have a 2012 milepost. I wouldn't leave the house without that. I used to work on the North Slope so bringing extra food and clothes during the winter is second nature. I will definately bring gas. I actually had it in my head that hey closed down the highway. I guess not. I will be coming from Arkansas and google maps says 80 hours. I consider this to be a potentially dangerous drive, so I will make it alone and fly the wife and kids up when I get there and get the apartment squared away. I know that the studded tires are pretty expensive. Is it feasible to bring along chains or do I need to just buck up and buy the studded tires?

    How do the Canadians act with gas onboard. Do I need to fill up after I cross the border or can I fill them up in the U.S.?

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    Member 907pride's Avatar
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    The borders are understanding of the fuel. I have never had them give me grief over it. It's probably pretty hard to find studds in Arkansas so I would recommend buying them once you get towards the snow. Maybe pick them up in Montana. These guys are steering you in the right direction. Make sure that you don't take the scenic route and go up the Cassiar highway in the winter time. That road sucks in the winter and there is absolutely no traffic. I don't think you would travel that way but I just wanted to mention it anyways.
    Be very careful of the animals. Travel slow int he Toad River area as well as Liard area. My last word of advice to you would be to make sure that you stop if someone appears to be in need. If you don't, then you will regret it when you are the next person in need of assistance and they don't stop for you. ~907

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    Quote Originally Posted by agoyne View Post
    I know that the studded tires are pretty expensive. Is it feasible to bring along chains or do I need to just buck up and buy the studded tires?

    How do the Canadians act with gas onboard. Do I need to fill up after I cross the border or can I fill them up in the U.S.?
    If you hit weather serious enough that you're traveling ahead of or faster than the snowplows, then slow down or lay over for a day while they catch up. You can keep the studs on (and in fact, you'll need them on your truck every winter here) but the chains come on and off, and when they're off, you'll still need good traction.

    About the gas, I'd suspect that the the Canuck customs would merely congratulate you on being well prepared, but chances are they'll never see it, unless you're doing a lot of other things wrong anyway.

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    Member agoyne's Avatar
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    I priced some studded tires on Ebay for my truck. They are $950 no tax and delivered to my house. My wife will be driving the truck with the kids when I fly her up there because I have to go back to work offshore. Would be a good investment considering how she drives in GOOD weather. She's got a big culture shock that's going to happen. I've worked on the slope and have lived in Utah before. I can drive in the snow/ice. But her, different story. I'm kinda worried really. I will definitely be giving some driving lessons.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 907pride View Post
    My last word of advice to you would be to make sure that you stop if someone appears to be in need. If you don't, then you will regret it when you are the next person in need of assistance and they don't stop for you. ~907
    Just remember that if the situation looks sketchy, don't stop! In the 90's a young man from Anchorage was murdered after he apparently picked up a crazy hitch hiker. The last time I drove up, it was 3am, pitch black, middle of nowhere, alone, and into my bright beams appears a guy ferociously waving both arms above his head. I wanted to stop, but I couldn't see a car and he looked really ragged. No weapons allowed there, so I had to pass.
    Another time, I passed three hitch hikers in the day, and then they got picked up by someone else and I saw them at the next gas station. They gave me some dirty looks.
    Also, check Craigslist in Montana and other places for studded tires. I have had a lot of luck finding good studded tires on there for cheap.

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    Member 907pride's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cwm907 View Post
    Just remember that if the situation looks sketchy, don't stop! In the 90's a young man from Anchorage was murdered after he apparently picked up a crazy hitch hiker. The last time I drove up, it was 3am, pitch black, middle of nowhere, alone, and into my bright beams appears a guy ferociously waving both arms above his head. I wanted to stop, but I couldn't see a car and he looked really ragged. No weapons allowed there, so I had to pass.
    Another time, I passed three hitch hikers in the day, and then they got picked up by someone else and I saw them at the next gas station. They gave me some dirty looks.
    Spoken just like someone from Anchorage! Oh No, dirty looks. That sounds horrifying!

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    Quote Originally Posted by cwm907 View Post
    Just remember that if the situation looks sketchy, don't stop! In the 90's a young man from Anchorage was murdered after he apparently picked up a crazy hitch hiker.
    So it's been what - 15 or 20 years since it happened? Has something similar happened since? I think that if you're in doubt, just crack the window, ask if they need help, and if something happens hit the gas. But you've got to stop and ask, I think.

    The other thing is that if it's very cold, just take a little extra time to warm up your car and be mindful that materials change at -40. I have a friend that was jackrabbiting it back from Whitehorse in -40 temperatures, went much too fast through those barfalicious frost heaves between Haines Junction and the border, and actually sheared the lug *bolts* off one of his wheels from the impact. That was not a great place to be dealing with an undriveable truck at -40. The colder it is and the more remote you are, the smaller your margin of error gets.

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    I've made the winter trip twice, once with a 4wd truck pulling a heavy trailer, and once with a Scion xB with all season tires. They do a surprisingly good job on the road maintenance. The only slight problems I had were deeper snow in any parking lots I ventured into. I tried to catch some shut-eye in the vehicle along the way and quickly found that without the motor/heat running, it got uncomfortably cold pretty darn quick! (even with a sleeping bag) I never really had a problem finding gas. Good food was a little harder! I wish I could've taken more time to enjoy the trip, but both times I was in a hurry to get from A to B. I've heard good things about Laird Hotsprings.

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    Since you've been on the slope you knowledge is better than most and know the weather is key, and know when to go and when to hold up. Lights, lota lights... stock headlights are insufficient. Animals like the easy walk on the road in the winter. That time of year you'll be driving a bunch of the time in the dark. Make sure the truck is perfect. A new battery is good. Extra windshield wipers, filters etc. A block heater could be useful as batteries and things die quickly at -20+. You seem to understand survival gear & rations etc.

    I travel it twice a year in Nov & Mar. They plow and sand it pretty well, but winds can cause significant drifting. Remember that a haul out on the Alcan is way more expensive than preparation. Actually the road is pretty good by historic standards. Note that it was closed last week for several days west of Watson Lake.
    http://www.yukon-news.com/news/28943/

    BC Roads is good for conditions and has links to the Yukon:
    http://www.drivebc.ca/

    Good luck & enjoy....

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    I drove in in Jan. Of 2010. My advice would be to buy studded tires before going in to canada. Tires there are expensive. Bring e travel fuel and as said before, don't pass up an empty gas station.

    I drove up in a 2007 Toyota Tacoma 4x4, towing a haul trailer.

    Robert

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    Lotsa good advice above. I've driven the Alcan many times in winter and some of it in a Tacoma with large LightForce "moose lights".
    I don't bother with studded tires but I do have differential fluids changed to synthetic for extreme cold as I lost a rear wheel bearing because of conventional gear lube in a new Ford truck.

    And....watch for those ****ed bison near Liard.

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    Member Matt83's Avatar
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    I made the trip the end of last Oct. we made it all the way to Prince George, BC before it snowed, from there on it was snow the whole way. I was driving a '08 Ram 2500 diesel with a 6x12 enclosed trailer. I purchased studless snow tires in Prince George the morning we woke up with snow on the ground, though I did not get them put on until we were in Watson Lake, YT. We were not able to get them put on without waiting for hours because so many Canadians were trying to do the same thing, so we just kept pressing on! I did go pretty slow though with just the all season tires, did not feel safe going too fast with my wife and 4 month old daughter in the truck with me. After I got the studless snow tires on I was able to keep up a pretty good pace, I did get one flat though, noticed it when we stopped at Liard Hot Springs. So make sure you have a good spare, and a second one would not be a bad idea either. Also, once you get past Destruction Bay, YT watch out for the frost heaves! They can be pretty bad if you are going too fast, at night though you can see them at quite a distance so you can slow down thanks to red relective flags on either side of them. The truckers will still fly by you though, when they do pass you cant see anything for a while so its safe to slow down. There will be all kinds of wildlife on your drive up, but pay attention for the Bison, they are quite large and blend in well in the dusk/dark! I just had stock headlights on my truck and I was fine, but getting some lightforce types would not be a bad idea, though quite expensive. As for Canadian customs, most are friendly, but there can be some real ***cks, just be honest with them, ESPECIALLY if you are bringing firearms, and if you are make sure you read up on the regulations concerning the type you will be bringing. Thats about all I can think of for now, it was a memorable trip that we had....good luck!!

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    Member agoyne's Avatar
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    Thank you guys for all of the helpful information. All of it good. I like to try to be prepared as possible when I do something. I have bought 2 alcohol stoves and some dehydrated food as well as bringing alot of bottled water. Lots of warm clothes too.

    Windvane, I am debating on pulling a UHAUL trailer as well. I havn't made up my mind yet.

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    I was surprised at how easily my Tacoma pulled the trailer, I would not hesitate to do it again.

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    Member agoyne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by windvane View Post
    I was surprised at how easily my Tacoma pulled the trailer, I would not hesitate to do it again.

    Sent from my DROIDX using Tapatalk 2
    What size did you tow windvane?

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    I drove it in 1992 in a 1970 Firebird with a 400 Ho engine, 60 series all season tires, no studs and a posi rearend. I drove the Kassier Hwy (western route)
    I had no traction problems, keeping to the speed limit helps. Only problem I had was the car froze up in Prince George, had to have Canadian Tire thaw it and install a battery warmer, and a block heater. (Car was from California)

    Oh yea, Keep a credit card handy to scrape the ice off the inside of the windshield
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