I know this may sound like a stupid question for those who drove up there before, but this would be our first trip up there and last thing I want to do is be stranded on a hill waiting for AAA.
Anyhow, are tire chains required for traveling from Los Angeles to Big Bear? If so, anyone got any idea where we can get them fairly inexpensive for 15" tires?
With that, do you even recommend driving a 2001 Civic up those hills?
The only time it is "required" is when the weather conditions are such that, either snow is sticking to the road surface, or, if the weather is merely threatening to snow.
The California Department of Transportation may set up check points during times that they determine that chains must be carried. They WILL turn you back at these checkpoints if you don’t have them in the car. If it is already snowing hard enough, they will require you to install the chains or they will not permit you to procede.
Especially during the Fall and Winter seasons, where the weather can rapidly change, it is a good idea to carry chains, and, learn how to install them yourself. Sometimes the weather changes so fast, that you can be stranded on a snowy, icy road before the chain installers have been called in.
I recall one time that I was in Reno in JUNE when there was a snowfall over Donner Pass. At the time, it was just a light dusting and chains were not called for, but, ever since that time, I have always had chains in whatever car we owned. We go up to Reno or Lake Tahoe about a half dozen time a year. Sometimes we’ve had to chain up when all the traffic ground to a halt because of the weather.
If your Civic is in decent condition, you should have not problems. The roads to most of the major ski resorts are pretty well maintained. But, during a snowstorm, I wouldn’t recommend the trip unless the car was well maintained, and, without ANY noticible problems. Little problems tend to become MAJOR problems during inclement weather.