Winter Weather Driving Tips For Winter
Travel On Okanagan BC Roads

Snow and ice are more slippery
at 0°C than at -20°C or below.

- source Transport Canada

If you're visiting the Okanagan during the winter, you'll want to review some quick winter weather driving tips for travelling interior BC highways and roads.

winter road conditions

Okanagan BC roads can be extremely precarious in the winter. The weather (One minute it's raining, and the next there's a blizzard!) and road conditions vary so much between the valley bottom and the higher mountain roads that lead to our Okanagan Valley ski resorts.

We can get a dump of snow in the valley, sometimes mixed with rain which freezes overnight, and then the next day or so, it's all gone again. So you can imagine that the highways and road coniditions can be equally dubious.

Apex Mountain Resort base elevation is 1,575 m/5,197 ft, while Big White Base Elevation 1,508 m/4,950 ft. Driving to the local ski resorts also means driving along higher mountain roads, where snow is heavier and weather conditions can be more severe than in the valley. Low cloud cover often means the sun is shining at the resorts, however, it also means you'll be driving through fog, rain or heavy snowfall to get there.

If it is snowing in the mountains, the valley floor often experiences rain, sleet, slush and snow all in one day.

Highways in and out of the Okanagan BC include:

  • BC Highway 97 - (the main highway running north and south through the valley)
  • Hwy 97C (the Coquihalla Connector)
  • Coquihalla Highway (toll highway)
  • Highway 3 (A/B)
  • Highway 5/5A

Both the Coquihalla and the Coquihalla connector are high mountain roads with driving conditions often drastically different from the lower valley highways.

Winter driving conditions in some areas can often last into April, with blowing snow, or compact snow at higher elevations, slushy or slippery sections and often limited visibility, so if you're considering travel during that time of the year, it's a good idea to be prepared and check local Okanagan BC road reports for current road conditions to ensure winter driving safety.

10 Winter Weather Driving Tips

  • Check the local British Columbia weather forecast before you head out on the roads. You can also check the BC Road reports for current winter road conditions.

  • Black Ice Winter Weather Driving Tips
    Watch for black ice at temperatures between +4°C and -4°C,
    where the road surface ahead looks black and shiny. It is
    often found on shaded areas of the road, bridges and
    overpasses long after the sun has come out.
    - source Transport Canada
  • If you're driving to ski resorts, carry chains, and/or use winter snow tires.

  • Ensure your vehicle brake system is working. Check or service your brakes to ensure even braking. Pulling, change in pedal feel, or unusual squealing or grinding may indicate they need service.

  • Check your vehicle tire pressure especially before any highway driving. Properly inflated, high quality winter tires will give you best traction on winter roads.

  • Carry a cell phone - fully charged. Cell phone service works in most parts of the region. Some areas at higher elevations and on the way to some local ski resorts do not pick up signals, however. Avoid back country roads where cell phones don't always work.

  • Carry extra warm clothing. Be sure to have an extra sweater, hat, gloves or mitts, a jacket, socks and warm winter boots.

  • Ensure that your radiator cap, water pump and thermostat are working properly. Check hoses and drive belts for cracks and leaks.

  • Drive slower than the posted speed limits in poor winter weather conditions.

  • If you do get stuck, stay in your vehicle until help arrives. Try to conserve fuel while maintaining warmth.

  • It's always a good idea to carry an emergency supply of snacks, candles, blankets and water in case you get stranded.

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