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Old 09-29-2013, 09:02 PM
Location: Falls Creek Ski Resort, Victoria, Australia
57 posts, read 111,453 times
Reputation: 28


We have just moved to Bozeman and are trying to decide whether we should buy winter snow tires. We have a Subaru Outback and will be mainly driving around town and to Bridger and Moonlight over the winter. Not much off road stuff. I have never driven on snow or ice and am just learning to drive on the right hand side of the road (going for my written test tomorrow).

We have had totally different opinions from the people we have spoken to so would like some more info before we make the decision. And opinions would be appreciated.
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Old 09-30-2013, 12:19 AM
Location: Spots Wyoming
18,696 posts, read 35,410,165 times
Reputation: 2147483647
There is a couple trains of thoughts on snow tires.

1) I grew up in the snow and learned to drive on snow and ice. Dad used to take me out in the field and make me put my vehicle into a power slide, or put me on steep inclines on snow and ice and make me start and stop. I had years of driving on the farm and even into town, before I ever got a drivers license. Personally, I won't buy a set of snow tires, it's a waste of money. On my truck I run BFG All Terrains and have never gotten it stuck, nor slid off the road. I drove professionally, all over Montana and Wyoming, hauling Railroaders to catch their trains and bring the old crews back and I did it in all kinds of weather. We run common tread tires on our vans and on our suburbans and even with that, I never had any problems. But, like I said, I learned to drive on ice and snow.

2) Snow tires give you a distinct advantage by giving you a lot better traction. For me, it almost gives you a false sense of security and you can get into trouble because you can go faster, turn better, and brake better. For somebody that is new to ice and snow, it's probably a good idea to spend the bucks and get a really good set of snow tires. Until you have a few years of driving on the conditions that you will see, you are much better off with snow tires.

Having said that, the highway department does an excellent job of clearing the roads. Watch your road reports and if they say the conditions are bad, believe them. I was taught that when there is snow on the road, to "Half your speed and double your distance." In other words, if you normally drive that road at 40, during the winter, drive it no more than 20. If you normally start braking for an intersection from 100 feet, during the winter, give yourself 200 feet.

Some vehicles are 4 wheel drive, but all vehicles are 4 wheel brake. They will give you better take off power, but that vehicle doesn't stop any better than any other vehicle.

Rear wheel drive is a vehicle that gives power to one rear wheel. In some cases, with a special rear end, it will give you power to two wheels.

Front wheel drive is a vehicle that gives power to one front wheel only. It has an advantage in that your engine is setting on the drive wheels and gives you better traction. If you put a half dozen sand bags in the trunk of a rear wheel drive vehicle, it accomplishes the same task. I prefer rear wheel drive because if you are on icy hills and you brake traction, you can still steer. With a front wheel drive vehicle, you brake traction and you may or may not be able to steer. YMMV

4 wheel drive vehicle is a vehicle that gives power to one front wheel and an opposing rear wheel. Again, if it has special gearing, you might put power to one front wheel and both back wheels. This is great for deep snow and off road, or heavy snow conditions.

All wheel drive is not what most people think it is. All wheel drive is a vehicle that "CAN" put power to any wheel, but only puts power to ONE wheel at a time. They are normally computer controlled and will put power to the wheel that does the best for the conditions and is capable of changing which wheel bases on conditions. For icy highways, packed snow, or light snow slick road conditions, this vehicle is excellent, but it is NOT for deep snow or off road conditions.

As soon as you get some decent snow and slick conditions, go to the local Kmart or WalMart parking lot, after hours and learn what your car will do. Practice giving it too much gas on take off's, and turns, as long as the parking lot is empty. Learn when your car will break loose, how well it corners, and specially, how well it stops. Get a good feel for your vehicle. A different vehicle is going to respond differently, so if you have two, take both of them to the parking lot and practice. You can also take them out in the country and practice on county roads, but make sure you have your cell phone and the number to a buddy that can come pull you out of the ditch.

The bottom line is, if you purchase all terrain tires, you can run them all year. If you purchase the more expensive snow tires, you'll want to switch them out in the spring and have them mounted again in the fall, or buy a second set of rims so you can just swap tires and rims. Good snow tires are a soft rubber and will wear easily on dry roads. Being expensive, you'll not want to use them during the summer.

Good luck!
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Old 09-30-2013, 12:10 PM
Location: Back at home in western Washington!
1,500 posts, read 3,750,097 times
Reputation: 3217
We drive up to Bridger pretty regularly during the ski season and I would say "yes" to snow tires if you are planning that drive. I know you said that you aren't doing any offroad stuff, but the narrow windy road that leads to Bridger can get pretty icy and the road crews aren't always able to keep up with it.

We have non-studded snow tires that we put on our vehicle and I like them very much. For us, the swapping out of tires is just something we do each Spring and Fall...a little expense for a little extra security during winter driving is well worth it to us.
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Old 09-30-2013, 05:20 PM
18,856 posts, read 30,440,508 times
Reputation: 25990
Yes, you need snow tires, even in town, depending on where you live.
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Old 10-01-2013, 12:05 AM
Status: "Gone hunting until December!" (set 22 days ago)
Location: Lost in Montana *recalculating*...
10,943 posts, read 14,584,566 times
Reputation: 11404
Nurse- Blizzacks on this Subaru STAT!!
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Old 10-01-2013, 12:21 AM
Location: california
5,478 posts, read 4,552,683 times
Reputation: 6402
Elk hunter is spot on. I would have written the same exact thing. I keep chains as well because they are required in my part of the world .
This is very solid advise don't take it for granted.
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Old 10-01-2013, 07:34 AM
Status: "Gone hunting until December!" (set 22 days ago)
Location: Lost in Montana *recalculating*...
10,943 posts, read 14,584,566 times
Reputation: 11404
Typically a Subaru will not take all terrain tires. All season but not all terrain. I have snow tires on two of my vehicles- a Toyota Prius and and a Mercury Milan. Both excel in traversing road conditions in the winter. Great grip and braking. But as mentioned you basically have NO WARNING when you exceed their capabilities- when they let loose you are in deep kimschee. Drive with caution and purpose and you are fine. Both of these vehicles are front wheel drive and handle general road conditions just fine, including our dirt road which gets ice packed.

My truck is 4x4 and wears all terrains and I have a set of chains. Different vehicle all together.

I can say this- back in WV snow tires are a joke. Wet heavy snow of any depth would cause problems. We had to park the Subaru Impreza and switch to the Jeep Cherokee and my truck, both with all terrains, and we got that Cherokee buried and stuck a time or two.

Winter here (typically) on normal roads are not nearly as difficult to traverse. The dry snow typically lends itself well to snow tires on most all wheel drive and front wheel drive vehicles. I drove my Prius anywhere I wanted last winter with zero problems.
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Old 10-01-2013, 07:57 AM
4,104 posts, read 3,444,432 times
Reputation: 8169
Welcome to Montana.
Buy the snow tires and enjoy the ski season. You could get by without snow tires but why risk it? Also get a bag of cheap clay cat litter and keep in your car. If you ever have trouble getting out of tight icy parking spot, pour a bit under the tires for instant traction. Driving a car you will be effected by snow drifts & hard packed deep ruts more than a 3/4 ton Suburban or pickup that size or larger would be with just all-seasons.
There are smaller ski areas that you should plan to visit if you want to have a more folksy Montana experience. Enjoy the winter and be certain to equip your car with winter survival items.
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Old 10-03-2013, 10:54 PM
Location: Falls Creek Ski Resort, Victoria, Australia
57 posts, read 111,453 times
Reputation: 28
Thanks so much everyone for your advice. I think we will go for snow tires plus I will do some practice in an empty parking lot too, both for our sakes and others on the road. As it is I am just getting used to driving on the right hand side of the road.
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