Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
Topic Author
texasdiver
Posts: 3481
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:50 am
Location: Vancouver WA

Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by texasdiver »

My daughter has landed a ski resort job for the upcoming ski season in WA at a resort where the average annual snowfall is 460". She will most likely be commuting up there from one of the nearby mountain towns for a daily commute of 30-40 miles each way if she doesn't ride the employee shuttle. It's on a major pass so they keep it plowed, but still, lots of snow and ice. She has a 2015 Kia Soul FWD which I figure will make a serviceable snow car with the right tires.

I'm figuring the best thing to do is wait until the Bridgestone coupons cycle around at Costco and then put on four new Bridgestone Blizzaks and toss a good set of tire chains in the back for when the going gets really tough along with a show shovel, tow ropes, etc. But I'm looking to the Boglehead hive mind here to see if there is a better solution for getting her ready for heavy snow commuting that doesn't involve buying a new Subaru or something. Would she be better off with metal studs?
dandinsac
Posts: 204
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2016 8:34 am

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by dandinsac »

When I lived in Maine for 2 winters, I had Blizzaks with a FWD car. I had a challenge one time getting out of a parking spot at work when it snowed all day. Otherwise, they worked very well and I never had chains.

I would think those tires with chains when needed for mountain roads would be fine for most situations when the roads are plowed.
User avatar
vitaflo
Posts: 1378
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:02 pm

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by vitaflo »

Blizzak or X-Ice. Blizzak better in deep snow. X-Ice better on icy roads. I’ve used both and you can’t go wrong with either. They’re very close in performance and probably the best winter tires there are.
Jack FFR1846
Posts: 12672
Joined: Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:05 am
Location: 26 miles, 385 yards west of Copley Square

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

Blizzaks and the like are fine for ho hum winter driving. You'd want Nokians for serious winter driving. I would think the Soul would be a horrible winter vehicle. It's low and one wheel drive. I've driven an 09 Fusion with Dunlop snows and been caught in snowstorms (would have taken my Jeep if I planned better). The Fusion is also one wheel drive and is spectacularly horrible in any snow.

I would not consider tires with studs. They're great in ice but are in my opinion dangerous on wet, non-icy roads. I had them at one time and nearly plowed into an accident just over the crest of a hill one day in wet conditions. I'd guess stopping distances in a panic stop with studded tires were double that without. I went home and pulled the studs out of my tires and those in my wife's tires.
Last edited by Jack FFR1846 on Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid
02nz
Posts: 5565
Joined: Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:17 pm

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by 02nz »

Jack FFR1846 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:11 pm Blizzaks and the like are fine for ho hum winter driving. You'd want Nokians for serious winter driving. I would think the Soul would be a horrible winter vehicle. It's low and one wheel drive. I've driven an 09 Fusion with Dunlop snows and been caught in snowstorms (would have taken my Jeep if I planned better). The Fusion is also one wheel drive and is spectacularly horrible in any snow.

I would not consider tires with studs. They're great in ice but are in my
I agree re: studs and Nokians (although Michelin X-Ice is also very good). But the Soul, like most vehicles, is definitely driven by two (front) wheels, not one-wheel drive! :P
Jack FFR1846
Posts: 12672
Joined: Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:05 am
Location: 26 miles, 385 yards west of Copley Square

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

02nz wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:12 pm
Jack FFR1846 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:11 pm Blizzaks and the like are fine for ho hum winter driving. You'd want Nokians for serious winter driving. I would think the Soul would be a horrible winter vehicle. It's low and one wheel drive. I've driven an 09 Fusion with Dunlop snows and been caught in snowstorms (would have taken my Jeep if I planned better). The Fusion is also one wheel drive and is spectacularly horrible in any snow.

I would not consider tires with studs. They're great in ice but are in my
I agree re: studs and Nokians (although Michelin X-Ice is also very good). But the Soul, like most vehicles, is definitely driven by two (front) wheels, not one-wheel drive! :P
Until one of those 2 wheels starts spinning. Then it becomes one wheel drive.
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid
drk
Posts: 1924
Joined: Mon Jul 24, 2017 10:33 pm
Location: Seattle

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by drk »

Blizzak for sure. Mine have gotten my FWD compact car to each of the area ski resorts and national parks in terrible conditions.
stl717
Posts: 82
Joined: Sat Apr 30, 2011 8:37 pm

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by stl717 »

Blizzaks all the way.
User avatar
Nate79
Posts: 6433
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2016 6:24 pm
Location: Delaware

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by Nate79 »

Is she going to store them over the summer? If she doesnt have the place to store or want to mess with that a good all weather tire like the Firestone Weathergrip could be an option for all year long.
Topic Author
texasdiver
Posts: 3481
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:50 am
Location: Vancouver WA

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by texasdiver »

vitaflo wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:49 pm Blizzak or X-Ice. Blizzak better in deep snow. X-Ice better on icy roads. I’ve used both and you can’t go wrong with either. They’re very close in performance and probably the best winter tires there are.
Our local Costcos here in the PNW seem to stock up on Blizzaks every winter but X-Ice are a special order. I don't know if that's because of price or because they get a better deal from Bridgestone or they just thing they are better. But it is something I notice. They have stacks of Blizzaks every winter in the warehouse but no other brands of snow tires.
Topic Author
texasdiver
Posts: 3481
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:50 am
Location: Vancouver WA

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by texasdiver »

Nate79 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:20 pm Is she going to store them over the summer? If she doesnt have the place to store or want to mess with that a good all weather tire like the Firestone Weathergrip could be an option for all year long.
They'll probably get stored in my garage or basement during the rest of the year. Price I'm willing to pay to have her safe.
User avatar
vitaflo
Posts: 1378
Joined: Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:02 pm

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by vitaflo »

Nate79 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:20 pm Is she going to store them over the summer? If she doesnt have the place to store or want to mess with that a good all weather tire like the Firestone Weathergrip could be an option for all year long.
No such thing as all weather tires. Tires are either pliable above 45 degrees or below. “All seasons” tires are really just summer tires because they harden way too much when the temps drop limiting their effectiveness in winter.

If you’re dealing with snow, get a real winter tire.
User avatar
Nate79
Posts: 6433
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2016 6:24 pm
Location: Delaware

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by Nate79 »

vitaflo wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:31 pm
Nate79 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:20 pm Is she going to store them over the summer? If she doesnt have the place to store or want to mess with that a good all weather tire like the Firestone Weathergrip could be an option for all year long.
No such thing as all weather tires. Tires are either pliable above 45 degrees or below. “All seasons” tires are really just summer tires because they harden way too much when the temps drop limiting their effectiveness in winter.

If you’re dealing with snow, get a real winter tire.

https://www.firestonetire.com/tire/weathergrip#

All weather. 3 peak mountain Snowflake rated.

And one from Nokian:
https://www.nokiantires.com/tires/passe ... her-tires/
Katietsu
Posts: 3996
Joined: Sun Sep 22, 2013 1:48 am

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by Katietsu »

vitaflo wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:31 pm
Nate79 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:20 pm Is she going to store them over the summer? If she doesnt have the place to store or want to mess with that a good all weather tire like the Firestone Weathergrip could be an option for all year long.
No such thing as all weather tires. Tires are either pliable above 45 degrees or below. “All seasons” tires are really just summer tires because they harden way too much when the temps drop limiting their effectiveness in winter.

If you’re dealing with snow, get a real winter tire.
Not true anymore. All weather is a newer category distinct from all season. I am a convert for the increasing slice of the country that can have a foot of snow one week and near 80 degree days the next week.

In the OP’s situation, I would still get dedicated snow tires.
hunoraut
Posts: 167
Joined: Sun May 31, 2020 11:39 am

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by hunoraut »

Nate79 wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:20 pm Is she going to store them over the summer? If she doesnt have the place to store or want to mess with that a good all weather tire like the Firestone Weathergrip could be an option for all year long.
For driving around ski resorts in ski season? Bad idea.

If you can't store tires, businesses will do it for you. That's how it works in urban centers
jbmitt
Posts: 537
Joined: Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:00 am

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by jbmitt »

texasdiver wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:21 pm
vitaflo wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:49 pm Blizzak or X-Ice. Blizzak better in deep snow. X-Ice better on icy roads. I’ve used both and you can’t go wrong with either. They’re very close in performance and probably the best winter tires there are.
Our local Costcos here in the PNW seem to stock up on Blizzaks every winter but X-Ice are a special order. I don't know if that's because of price or because they get a better deal from Bridgestone or they just thing they are better. But it is something I notice. They have stacks of Blizzaks every winter in the warehouse but no other brands of snow tires.
We have two Subarus. One has Michelin X-ICE the other has Bridgestone Blizzaks. I've been happy with how both vehicles and the tires have performed in the winter.

Unless her colleagues tell her otherwise, her vehicle should be ok with winter tires, chains, shovel, etc. I'd add some snacks, blankets, warm clothes in case she gets stuck somewhere.
atikovi
Posts: 995
Joined: Tue Sep 10, 2019 7:20 pm
Location: Suburban Washington DC

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by atikovi »

texasdiver wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:24 pm She has a 2015 Kia Soul FWD which I figure will make a serviceable snow car with the right tires.
Most people around here that have 4x4's have never had to put it in 4WD in years. They just buy them for looks. If ever there was a situation where someone should actually buy a 4x4, your daughter's situation calls out for it. Even if they plow the passes, it might not be until you get a few inches. And what about the side roads, parking lots or access roads. I'd be shopping for a 4x4 now.
jharkin
Posts: 2596
Joined: Mon Mar 28, 2016 7:14 am
Location: Boston suburbs

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by jharkin »

atikovi wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 6:58 pm
texasdiver wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:24 pm She has a 2015 Kia Soul FWD which I figure will make a serviceable snow car with the right tires.
Most people around here that have 4x4's have never had to put it in 4WD in years. They just buy them for looks. If ever there was a situation where someone should actually buy a 4x4, your daughter's situation calls out for it. Even if they plow the passes, it might not be until you get a few inches. And what about the side roads, parking lots or access roads. I'd be shopping for a 4x4 now.
Better to go for with an AWD, I.e. Subaru, etc. True 4x4 can be tricky to drive on the slick stuff, especially ice. (I’ve had both, 4x4 mayget you out of a snow bank but awd has a better chance of not getting you into the snow bank in the first place)
onourway
Posts: 2673
Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:39 pm

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by onourway »

Nokians and don’t even think about anything else. Blizzak’s and X-ice’s are not even in the same category. And that’s when they’re brand new. The Nokians will probably last twice as long, and keep their unbelievable traction even as they wear.
marcwd
Posts: 353
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 10:15 am
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by marcwd »

onourway wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 8:16 pm Nokians and don’t even think about anything else. Blizzak’s and X-ice’s are not even in the same category. And that’s when they’re brand new. The Nokians will probably last twice as long, and keep their unbelievable traction even as they wear.
Which Nokian’s- “All Weather” or winter?
onourway
Posts: 2673
Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2016 3:39 pm

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by onourway »

marcwd wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 8:51 pm
onourway wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 8:16 pm Nokians and don’t even think about anything else. Blizzak’s and X-ice’s are not even in the same category. And that’s when they’re brand new. The Nokians will probably last twice as long, and keep their unbelievable traction even as they wear.
Which Nokian’s- “All Weather” or winter?
I would go with the Hakkapelitta R2 or R3, or a non-studded Nordman variant if it is offered at a lower price.

The PNW is one market where All Weather tires can be a good compromise if you live on the coast where it rarely freezes and drive into the mountains regularly, however despite 20+ years of absolute satisfaction with Nokian winter tires, their WR All Weather tires wore out exceptionally fast on the one vehicle we tried them on. I’d stick with full winters, swapping them in the summer, and still carry a set of chains (and make sure she knows how to use them).
Investtoski
Posts: 30
Joined: Fri Jun 06, 2014 8:17 am

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by Investtoski »

I owned front wheel drive cars for years. After a challenging race morning for one of my kids, got an AWD Pilot and never looked back nor met a snow covered hill we couldn’t get up. While the snowflake rated Nokian’s served us well on the Pilot, on our next AWD SUV, we got dedicated snows and that made driving that much easier.

I know some areas (ie passes) will limit traffic based on how vehicle is equipped. Don’t recall if AWD was the requirement or if chains were also required. You may want to confirm whether her proposed route ever has such restrictions.

While I’ve done a lot of winter driving with FWD, I am much more comfortable when family are making long snowy drive with AWD. While it is completely doable with FWD, IMO its just that much safer with AWD and snow tires. That said, at a minimum, I’d go with a dedicated winter tire as the all-season simply aren’t meant for 420” winters.

Hope she has a good season!
User avatar
MP123
Posts: 1667
Joined: Thu Feb 16, 2017 3:32 pm

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by MP123 »

Assuming she's working at Stevens Pass the road is pretty well maintained except for occasional blizzard conditions when they can't keep up.

But WSDOT has several levels of requirements depending on conditions, culminating in chains required on two wheel drive cars regardless of tire type (AWD allowed without chains).

If she'll be doing that drive regularly in the winter I'd suggest an AWD vehicle. There's lots of vertical and several places where you definitely don't want to go over the side.
User avatar
Watty
Posts: 20705
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:55 pm

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by Watty »

texasdiver wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:24 pm She has a 2015 Kia Soul FWD .....

But I'm looking to the Boglehead hive mind here to see if there is a better solution for getting her ready for heavy snow commuting that doesn't involve buying a new Subaru or something.

I looked it up and the 2015 Kia Soul only has 5.9 inches of ground clearance so I would suspect that will be a problem in deep snow in the parking lots no matter how good her tires and chains are. Picking a parking space that will be easier to get out of and backing into the parking space may really help you get out if a lot of snow falls during the day when you are at work.

Be sure that she puts the snow chains on the car someplace where it is warm and dry to make sure that they really fit. Sometimes they will say that they will fit but they don't.

I once ran into that and I was rolling around in the slush for about 45 minutes trying to get them on before I finally gave up. I was at least lucky and I was able to find a place to buy the right size chains for not too outrageous a price.

She should also practice putting the chains on and taking them off half a dozen times in someplace where it is warm and dry. After you have done it a few times it is a lot easier to do.

For putting on chains is also helps to have a junky thrift store coat in the car that you do not mind getting wet.

A FWD car with chains will get you through a lot but you may only be able to go 25 MPH.
Last edited by Watty on Sat Sep 19, 2020 10:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
inbox788
Posts: 7610
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:24 pm

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by inbox788 »

texasdiver wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:24 pmMy daughter has landed a ski resort job for the upcoming ski season in WA at a resort where the average annual snowfall is 460". She will most likely be commuting up there from one of the nearby mountain towns for a daily commute of 30-40 miles each way if she doesn't ride the employee shuttle. It's on a major pass so they keep it plowed, but still, lots of snow and ice.
How much traffic? And how much time will it typically take? I wouldn't be surprised if it were 1 hour with traffic and 2 in bad weather. Not something I'd want to do daily, even with good snow tires. I'd take the shuttle or even look for a place to sleep nearby so I wouldn't be commuting 1-4 hours in bad conditions. Is that common? Do workers that commute go really early to beat the traffic and leave really late to avoid the going home crowd?

I always thought young workers gathered in crowded, but cheap arrangements nearby, both workers and skiers, but in current times, not the best idea.
Topic Author
texasdiver
Posts: 3481
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 12:50 am
Location: Vancouver WA

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by texasdiver »

Thanks guys.

Yes, Stevens Pass. She has a room lined up maybe an hour from the resort. I will STRONGLY be encouraging her to use the employee shuttle and maybe they will be required to anyway since parking is limited. But she is also 22 and doesn't always listen to dad so I want to make sure her car is at least as snow ready as is reasonably possible. Buying some new 4x4 or AWD snow car is not really in the cards for a 5 month job that will mostly be a one-time deal while she waits for the economy to pick back up and companies to start hiring young college grads again. A 4x4 would likely cost more than she'll make. And she'll most likely wind up in a city job in Portland or Seattle in 6-10 month or so, however that works out.

I don't expect her to be driving up on a regular basis. But she's also a snowboarder and will probably be doing snow boarding excursions too to other area resorts. Who knows. At a minimum I want to make sure her car is as snow ready as possible.

As for tire chains. I've been using them myself for 30 years and she has been trained on their install, removal, and usage rules for when she has driven my or my wife's cars up to our local ski areas on her own. We will most definitely make sure her car is properly equipped for winter.

Other than buying her a new Subaru, it seems the best solution is to put a good set of Blizzaks or the equivalent on her car and load up the back with chains and other winter equipment (shovel, chains, blankets, water, flares, etc.) and make sure she knows how to use all of it.
Oreamnos
Posts: 71
Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2014 1:27 pm

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by Oreamnos »

The #1 thing you can and should do in her situation is put on a dedicated set of high-quality winter/snow tires.

And then secondly, carry the various equipment you listed, along with the knowledge to use it all. Especially including chains.

But putting on chains just sucks. And is dangerous. In my opinion, being stopped on the side of a slushy/snowy highway to put on chains is likely the most dangerous place one can be in the winter. That being said, I of course carry them, just in case they ever become truly needed, or if you come across the extremely rare conditions where WSP/OSP are there to ensure chains are actually used. This CAN happen even with 4WD/AWD and snow tires with a full 'mountain & snowflake" rating, but almost never does.

As for tire selection, I have a bit of a different opinion than most. Just my opinion/experience, but it's coming from a long, long-time PNW driver who has spent a lifetime crossing the Cascades in any and all weather, often several times per week (or more). I'm also a bit of a tire junkie, having been spent a lot of time testing the limits of tire/car performance on the track and in other settings.

Modern studless snow tires like the Blizzaks have gotten very, very good, especially when they are not yet worn down. However, I'm of the strong opinion that good studded snow tires (emphasis on 'good') still outperform the best of the studless tires in the most challenging conditions. I'm talking about the classic PNW areas with freezing rain, or with compressed/frozen slush. Studless works quite well in actual snow (of moderate depth) or on cold, dry ice. But personally, if I had a daughter driving to Stevens or similar every day, and I knew she'd only be using these tires for the very specific winter season, I'd want the studs over studless.

Some smallish number of years ago, a buddy and I had the opportunity to do the best head-to-head studded/studless comparison I've personally encountered. We owned matching Audi A6 quattros, and my car had the Nokian Hakka 1s (studded), while his had the latest studless Blizzaks. (I've had various snow tires over the years, but once I experienced the Hakkas, I became a devotee). It was during one of those rare winter storms you get in PDX/SEA and suburbs, with about 6 inches of snow on top of various ice/slush layers. Much like what you get in the frequent transition from lowland rain to wet snow on the west side of the Cascade passes. The studs were simply ultimately better, especially in cornering, and in ultimate grip on wet ice, and during braking in deeper slush. I kinda doubt that the results would be the same if the studded tires weren't the excellent Hakka 1s, but were instead some cheaper, harder no-name studded winter tire.

I do think that the limited ground clearance will be the biggest limitation if driving a Blizzak-equipped Soul. Obviously, lots of people make it to the OR/WA ski areas every day in similar cars. But driving any place other than the maintained highway or ski area parking lots could be a challenge.
bubbadog
Posts: 920
Joined: Wed Mar 26, 2014 9:17 pm
Location: Cincinnati,Ohio

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by bubbadog »

texasdiver wrote: Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:24 pm My daughter has landed a ski resort job for the upcoming ski season in WA at a resort where the average annual snowfall is 460". She will most likely be commuting up there from one of the nearby mountain towns for a daily commute of 30-40 miles each way if she doesn't ride the employee shuttle. It's on a major pass so they keep it plowed, but still, lots of snow and ice. She has a 2015 Kia Soul FWD which I figure will make a serviceable snow car with the right tires.

I'm figuring the best thing to do is wait until the Bridgestone coupons cycle around at Costco and then put on four new Bridgestone Blizzaks and toss a good set of tire chains in the back for when the going gets really tough along with a show shovel, tow ropes, etc. But I'm looking to the Boglehead hive mind here to see if there is a better solution for getting her ready for heavy snow commuting that doesn't involve buying a new Subaru or something. Would she be better off with metal studs?
Can she always just take the employee shuttle? In those kind of driving conditions, wouldn't that be the simplest and safest solution?
Jack FFR1846
Posts: 12672
Joined: Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:05 am
Location: 26 miles, 385 yards west of Copley Square

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

Here's a recommendation for cable type "chains" only on the Soul.

http://www.kisouman.com/tire_chains-256.html

I was thinking about wheel well clearance as I know our first generation Crosstrek barely fits the OEM sized tires and even rubs with snows. The second generation Crosstrek (18+) has much larger wheel openings and will easily fit even link type chains and comes with bigger tires as OEM equipment.

You mention that the job won't pay for an AWD car, but this can simply be a swap and keep operation. A Crosstrek has 8.7" of clearance, real AWD and can actually drive on dry roads once the ski job is done with. I'd recommend trading the Soul for a Crosstrek, throw on a set of Nokian snow tires and be prepared.
Bogle: Smart Beta is stupid
getthatmarshmallow
Posts: 656
Joined: Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:43 am

Re: Which snow tires for serious snow commuting?

Post by getthatmarshmallow »

We have Blizzaks for winter with multiple trips per week up the mountain for skiing. So much better than all-season tires. We also sometimes take the ski bus to one of the steeper mountains to save wear and tear on the car. If there's an employee shuttle, however, she should take advantage of it, especially as she'll likely have to be leaving quite early in the dark to be there at opening.
Post Reply