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Old 03-09-2013, 06:32 PM   #1
Christian Breuer OP
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Question How likely are US Interstates in the Rockies impassable due to snow/ice in May?

My friend are planning a cross country trip in May this year.
From reading we are now pretty aware that many roads in the Rocky Mountains will still not be passable for Motorcycles in May. I don't see this as a big issue as we can plan well ahead with the latest weather information. If there is snow, we simply circumnavigate the high passes on (less interesting) interstates instead.

My question is: how likely is it, that even major US interstates like I90, I15 in the Yellowstone area are impassable in May for multiple days in a row?

If someone could tell me from experience that would be wonderful.
Thanks a lot,
Christian
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Old 03-09-2013, 07:21 PM   #2
Sjoerd Bakker
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You should have no trouble in May . The interstates don't travel over very high passes to begin with and they are continually kept passable for truck traffic. In case of severe snow chains on cars and trucks will be mandatory and that would eliminate bike travel.
Of course there are many snow event prone places where interstates have barricades which can be dropped across the road to prevent further traffic movement
but in May that risk is considerably reduced as compared to winter .
Certainly there may be an unexpected wintry storm on some high-plain or mountain area , even in May orJune or July or..... but like you say if you stay informed on the weather you can wait or take a different route.
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:06 PM   #3
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Living in the Rockies...

I can tell you that any road or pass can shut down any day of the year due to weather, usually snow. My yard got 4" of snow in a couple hours on the afternoon of July 4, 2011, but was watching the fireworks in the front yard that evening with no snow.

The odds are slim for any given day the closer to July that you get, but there is a chance. When it does snow from April through October, it is usually a one day weather pattern...two days at the most. Often, if you get a nightfall or morning snowfall in a pass, it will be passable around noon.

For your trip dates, I would not be concerned. Just watch the weather and state road reports.
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:34 PM   #4
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As others have said, the weather can change pretty fast. I've been caught in snow in Colorado in June on I-70. My riding buddy got caught in several inches of snow in Yellowstone in mid June. There is not a month I haven't been snowed on in the Rockies.

Usually the interstates are open, but who wants to ride interstates. The fun roads are more likely to have snow in May.

Most of the passes in the Cascades don't open until late May and sometimes June.

Just check the hwy. dept. websites for hwy. conditions and watch the weather.
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Old 03-10-2013, 05:54 AM   #5
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Good place to watch.
http://www.cotrip.org/
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Old 03-10-2013, 07:51 AM   #6
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The traditional opening of the high pass in RMNP on Trail Ridge drive is memorial day when the towns of Estes Park,CO & Granby,CO meet via that road again. Al Gore's new weather patterns may be involved these days of lesser snow but it looked pretty cold when we were snowshoeing there in the NP, at one end in Jan.,2012.
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Old 03-10-2013, 09:48 AM   #7
Strong Bad
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christian Breuer View Post

My question is: how likely is it, that even major US interstates like I90, I15 in the Yellowstone area are impassable in May for multiple days in a row?

If someone could tell me from experience that would be wonderful.
Thanks a lot,
Christian
You will not encounter any snow closures on any interstate in May.

Interstates 15 and 90 are rarely closed for snow even in mid winter. Idaho & Montana highway departments plow the roads and everyone chains up and continues on their way.
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Old 03-10-2013, 08:08 PM   #8
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Some funny replies here. I've only lived in the high country of Colorado for 41 years, so I don't know much about roads here. But I will tell you this, gotta hunch lose a bunch when it comes to roads and weather in Colorado any time of year. And here only new comers and fools predict the weather and if you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes and it will change.
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Old 03-11-2013, 06:57 AM   #9
mark883
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Went over Donner's Pass (I-90, I think) once in May.

While it wasn't closed, I sure as heck would not have wanted to ride my motorcycle in that snow.
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Old 03-11-2013, 10:55 AM   #10
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I doubt you'll find any Interstate hwy pass actually shut down that late but you can get snow anytime at upper elevations. I laid over outside Butte, MT once and woke up to 4" of snow on the 4th of July. I was in a 4WD pickup and the plows were running so continued west to WA no biggie. If you're on a bike just take a day off. If you do get snow it won't last, it'll be gone again in a day.
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Old 03-11-2013, 11:58 AM   #11
vaara
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A few years ago I rode from NorCal to Breckenridge and back in mid-May. I had no problems on the way there; there was plenty of snow on the ground at Vail Pass but the roads were clear. However, on the way home I had to detour around some snowy weather in SW CO (I had to skip the Million-Dollar Highway :( ) and I hit snow on US 50 over the Sierra.
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Old 03-11-2013, 02:22 PM   #12
ALinUTAH
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You asked how likely interstates will be closed. I assume what you mean is unrideable on a motorcycle rather than actually closed.

Everybody has an anecdote about late snow. I got a foot at my house (7700ft elev) on June 17th many years ago. I've been snowed on while backpacking in August. My earliest snow at home was labor day weekend. And this is way down south in UT.

But riding road bikes on highways, it really is unlikely that you will get shut down due to snow in May. Yes it could happen but it isn't something you should worry about. And if it does happen, it will most likely melt off quickly, if it even sticks on the roads at all. -al
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Old 03-11-2013, 07:59 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Strong Bad View Post
You will not encounter any snow closures on any interstate in May.

Interstates 15 and 90 are rarely closed for snow even in mid winter. Idaho & Montana highway departments plow the roads and everyone chains up and continues on their way.
Total B.S. I was stopped for half a day in my truck last May waiting for Cabbage to re-open on I-84.

Don't know where you live, but I just moved from my old house that was about .5 miles from I-15 in Idaho. Now, I'm near I-80/I-15.

Actually, it is relatively common for I-15 to close during mid winter, usually from Roberts, ID north to Spencer/Monida Pass or as far north as Divide, MT. This whole stretch suffers from blizzard/blowing/drifting snow conditions. The plows stop during those conditions and the State Troopers lower and lock the gates on the freeway on-ramps. That's what all those miles of snow fencing are about on I-15...

Less common in May.
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Old 03-16-2013, 06:55 PM   #14
Christian Breuer OP
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Thumb Thanks!

Thanks everyone for replying - I got much more feedback than expected. Great community here!

To summarize: it may snow any day in the Rockies, even elevation levels of major highways. But chances are low in May. If it snows, the roads will be most likely passable for motorcycles again the next day.

That sounds perfect for our planned trip. Of course we wish we can use one of the beautiful passes. But if these roads are still closed, or the weather forecast predicts snow we simply plan an alternative route.

Cheers,
Christian
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Old 03-18-2013, 02:19 PM   #15
KonaTheHusky
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christian Breuer View Post
Thanks everyone for replying - I got much more feedback than expected. Great community here!

To summarize: it may snow any day in the Rockies, even elevation levels of major highways. But chances are low in May. If it snows, the roads will be most likely passable for motorcycles again the next day.

That sounds perfect for our planned trip. Of course we wish we can use one of the beautiful passes. But if these roads are still closed, or the weather forecast predicts snow we simply plan an alternative route.

Cheers,
Christian
I've lived in the foothills of Colorado for 7 years now and your summary is pretty much spot on. Colorado Dept of Transportation is VERY prompt in updating highway conditions. Be wary of the sand they lay down on the roads.
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