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Motorists Urged to ‘Take it Slow in Ice and Snow’ in Seeking Snow Recreation During Pandemic

California agencies and ski industry partner to promote safe, open winter roadways as day trips alter traffic patterns

Sacramento, Calif. (Dec. 17, 2020) — A coalition of key state agencies and California travel industry leaders have partnered to promote safe winter driving as Californians seek safe outdoor recreation during snow season.

Visit California, Ski California (aka California Ski Industry Association), the California State Transportation Agency, California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the Governor’s Office of Business of Economic Development (GO-Biz) are coordinating efforts to keep roads clear and accessible for California day-trippers encountering winter conditions, as well as pandemic-induced travel restrictions that will greatly affect traditional winter traffic patterns.

Current state travel restrictions prohibit overnight lodging for leisure travelers but allow outdoor recreation, including day trips to snowy mountains in both Northern and Southern California. Ski resorts are open, following strict distancing and visitation management protocols for skiers and riders who drive in for the day before heading home.

“The pandemic has greatly impacted California’s travel industry, but even as Californians comply with stay-at-home orders this month and as those restrictions begin to lift, many will head outdoors in search of safe activities for day trips,” said Caroline Beteta, president & CEO of Visit California. “The need for clear roadways and communication regarding safety and responsibility with motorists is perhaps more crucial than ever, and keeping mountain communities accessible and safe requires a herculean effort.”

“CHP and Caltrans work to ensure safe travel for all road users – a job that becomes more urgent when unpredictable weather and traffic create challenging road conditions,” said California State Transportation Agency Secretary David S. Kim. “We encourage those who travel to mountain areas to follow the state’s health-related guidelines and heed this coalition’s traffic safety messages as a part of trip planning.”

Caltrans oversees the maintenance and operations of more than about 50,000 miles of roadway on the State Highway System. The Caltrans equipment shops and maintenance yards in and around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Kingvale, the San Bernardino mountains and other snow areas across the state work throughout the year to prepare a fleet of more than 250 pieces of equipment for the winter.

Caltrans is working to increase communication with communities and drivers, posting on social media and increasing digital signage to help travelers reach their winter destinations safely.

“Safety is our foremost priority at Caltrans, and during the winter that means doing everything we can to keep mountain roadways clear,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “Safe roads are a shared responsibility, and motorists need to be prepared for snowy conditions. This year, we’re likely to see many drivers facing winter conditions for the first time. We ask everyone to view and understand chain requirements and safe parking options at QuickMap on the Caltrans website before heading out to unfamiliar territory.” 

The CHP is also focused on expanding communication tactics in coordination with other governmental agencies and the ski industry to reach more motorists, developing more nimble staffing plans and other methods to keep traffic flowing on roadways impacted by snow and ice.

“The CHP is doing everything we can to deliver a clear message to the driving public regarding safety and preparedness. It’s imperative drivers understand the conditions before hitting the road, make a plan for their trip, stay alert, and take it slow in ice and snow,” said CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray.

Ski resorts are well-prepared to operate safely this year, with many COVID-focused protocols in place, including implementing visitation management systems, according to Ski California. The ski industry is analyzing guest visitation data and customer behavior to model out peak traffic forecasts, which will help CHP and Caltrans better predict when to expect the heaviest traffic, especially as more travelers turn to daytrips.

“Ski resorts across the state have worked tirelessly this year on significant modifications to meet COVID-19 guidelines and protect guests,” said Michael Reitzell, president of Ski California. “The collaboration between our state’s transportation agencies and the ongoing support they provide throughout the season provides a safe door-to-door experience, and we would not be able to operate without them.”

“While this has been a challenging year for businesses across the state – especially those in the travel and hospitality industries – skiing and other winter sports can be a safe experience for Californians looking to enjoy the outdoors,” said Dee Dee Myers, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. “Our state agencies play a vital role in maintaining the roads for these communities and all Californians interested in snow activities this winter.”

For the most up-to-date information on road conditions and chain controls, travelers can access Caltrans’ online “Quick Map” at quickmap.dot.ca.gov. Travelers are encouraged to consult the CHP and Caltrans’ social media accounts, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, in snow areas for information on road conditions, chain controls, or other details that may impact their trip. To find a local CHP Area office, go to www.chp.ca.gov/find-an-office. Changeable Message Signs will also be used to share information as possible on chain requirements and road closures.  

From building a surfing snowman, to tubing or enjoying a perfect powder day, California is home to one of the longest ski seasons in North America with the ultimate landscape for a snow adventure. Travelers should be mindful of travel and lodging restrictions in place, plan ahead and be prepared for unpredictable and changing winter weather conditions before they leave home to better ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.For mountain safety, resort info and more, including direct links to California ski areas’ COVID-19 policies, go to skicalifornia.org.

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ABOUT VISIT CALIFORNIA

Visit California is a nonprofit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state’s travel industry – that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. For more information about Visit California and for a free California Official State Visitor’s Guide, go to www.visitcalifornia.com. For story ideas, media information, downloadable images, video and more, go to media.visitcalifornia.com.

Media Contact:
Ryan Becker, Visit California
(916) 505-2842
rebecker@visitcalifornia.com

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