It’s the same questions every time the snow flies: Should I get winter tires? Aren’t all-seasons good enough? Why spend the extra money when I’ve never had a problem before?

“One of the most important factors in starting, steering or stopping on ice and snow is your tires,” says Mark Cox, director of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

“It makes no difference if you have a front-wheel, four-wheel or rear-wheel drive, your vehicle will perform better in most winter driving conditions if it is equipped with purpose-built winter tires instead of all-season radials.”

Can you use all-season tires all year? “Tire manufacturers have certainly come a long way in improving winter traction of their all-season tires, but a dedicated winter tire is designed specifically to handle winter driving needs,” Cox continues. “And with more areas outlawing or limiting the use of studded snow tires, studless snow tires are becoming more popular.”

A Canadian Tire spokesman advises that “winter tires should be used once the temperature hits seven degree Celsius or lower, as this is when all-season tires begin to lose elasticity, resulting in reduced traction. Winter tires retain their elasticity to grip at much lower temperatures. This provides improved traction for starting, cornering and stopping and can transform the handling of cars.”

As for the myth of being more expensive, an article on Toyo Tires Canada’s website states that “changing from winter tires to summer or all-season tires is a bit of a hassle, but the only cost incurred is the cost of remounting your tires. Winter tires used during the months when they are designed will last for many years, extending the life of your summer tires. It can actually save you money when considering the costs of replacing a high-performance tire sooner. A way to reduce the changeover cost is to have a second set of steel rims with snow tires already mounted.”

Some winter tire options

Bridgestone Blizzak WS60
• No studs needed. This latest edition of the “Winter Biter” tire by Blizzak gives you confidence in traction when it freezes and security in braking when it melts. Exclusive multiple Bridgestone technologies work together with the added reinforcement of RC polymer to further enhance grip in severe ice and snow conditions. Its zigzag sipes improve snow and ice traction by increasing the number of biting edges, while the wide straight groove improves water evacuation to increase traction. The riblets further improve traction on ice, while the multicell compound uses millions of microscopic pores to remove the thin layer of surface water.

MotoMaster Total Terrain W/T
• This winter tire designed for SUVs, CUVs and light trucks uses D-squared sipe technology to further enhance winter performance while maintaining excellent wet traction throughout the life of the tire. Patented “Snow-Groove” design technology provides biting edges for excellent snow and ice traction without reducing element stiffness. The sawtooth centre circumferential rib and block tread enhance stability and even treadwear in all types of weather conditions. The Total Terrain W/T is moulded to accept studs where permitted by provincial law.

Toyo Observe G-02 plus

• The TOYO OBSERVE G-02 plus is designed to deliver a secure winter ride with added comfort in the worst Canadian winter conditions. Advanced tread design and tread compound with a wide footprint give the OBSERVE G-02 plus increased all-around winter performance. Wide Contact Patch brings better dry and wet handling, ice braking and tread life. Increased sipe density improves water evacuation resulting in improved levels of ice traction, while larger wave sipes increases lateral traction on ice and other slippery surfaces. The microbit compound improved studless tire technology, increasing traction and braking on ice and compacted snow.

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