Driving in the Colorado Rocky Mountains in Winter

Things to be aware of when driving in the Colorado Rocky Mountains  in winter

Winter elopements in Colorado can be dazzling, but there are some things you need to be aware of in order to navigate mountain roads in winter.

No, this is not a primer in how to drive in the snow! As a side note, however, if you’re not used to driving in snow and are nervous about it, we can recommend some shuttles and alternate forms of transportation so you don’t need to navigate through the white stuff by car on your own.


Colorado has traction laws in place from September 1st through May 31st

You can check out the full text of the law on the CO Department of Transportation (CDOT) webpage. The essence of it is as follows:

Between September 1st and May 31st, any vehicle driven on the interstate (I-70) that heads up into the mountains (which starts just west of Denver in the towns of Golden/Morrison), must have one of the following:

  • 4WD or AWD vehicle with a minimum 3/16” tread depth on the tires.
  • Snow tires with a minimum 3/16” tread depth on the tires.
  • Tires with an all-weather rating by the manufacturer with a minimum 3/16” tread depth on the tires.
  • Chains or an approved alternative traction device.


The fine for being out of compliance starts at $130 and goes up substantially if you block traffic with your disabled vehicle or you cause an accident.

If you plan to rent a car while you’re in Colorado, know that unless you have specifically rented an AWD/4WD vehicle, you will not meet the above requirements. It’s rare for rental car companies to offer vehicles with snow tires. Also, the use of chains typically voids the damage policies of rental cars. It’s been our experience that since this law has gone into effect, very few car rental companies have been forthcoming about this info.

Your best bet is to insist on a AWD or 4WD vehicle. And check the tire tread!

CO Traction Law Infographic

If you have questions about this, contact your Blue Sky Elopements’ Coordinator for help.