Some provinces require them in ski country, some don’t; regardless, the advice from the experts is that every skier should use certified winter tires. The three-peaked mountain and snowflake symbol signals the tires are made from a softer rubber compound with snow and ice–specific tread to increase traction and control. They’re recommended as soon as the thermometer drops below 7 C, a threshold where all-season tire rubber starts to stiffen and not grip as well. Mount them on their own rims to cut cost in the long run and extend the life of the tires.
When it comes to actually picking a specific four, it all comes down to location, says Paul McAlduff, president of the Western Canada Tire Dealers Association. “The right tire is about where you drive a lot and where you think the most danger is,” he says. “There’s an ideal tire for every situation and location.”
The options generally break down into five categories, each with its own pros and cons.
Thin slices in the traction, called siping, move snow and water out of the way and create micro-suction to ice and pavement.
Pro: Best ice grip
Cons: Wears faster, not as much grip in snow
Recommended for: Colder places like Calgary and the Prairies and mild areas like coastal B.C.
Snow tires have some siping, like ice tires, but with more aggressive traction for digging through snow.
Pro: Best traction in deeper snow and slush
Con: Not as good on ice
Recommended for: Snow belts like the B.C. Interior and eastern Quebec
A hybrid tire combines snow and ice characteristics.
Pro: Good snow and ice performance
Con: Not as good as either specialty tire
Recommended for: Weekend warriors in B.C., Ontario and most of Quebec
This is a new category of tire that melds the tread life of an all-season and the winter certification of a winter tire.
Pros: No need to swap out tires in the summer; solid winter tire performance
Cons: 25 per cent more expensive; tread won’t last as long as an all-season tire; limited tire sizes available.
Recommended for: Those who don’t want to swap out their winter and summer tires
Metal pins attached to the tire increase ice grip.
Pro: Excellent packed snow and ice performance
Con: Restricted use in many areas
Recommended for: Gnarly driveways and rugged mountain roads
Cables or chain wrap around the tire.
Pro: Excellent emergency situation traction
Cons: Have to stop to put them on; not a replacement for winter tires
Recommended for: Just-in-case use when conditions get extreme, especially hard-packed ice.
– By Ryan Stuart