By Sam Collentine, Meteorologist Posted 1 month ago October 30, 2023

Winter Tires, Explained

winter tires explained FAQ

A lot of people, especially folks recreating in the mountains, question the need for winter tires.

The truth is that winter tires are distinct from all-season and summer tires in a variety of ways. Winter tires, also known as snow tires, are designed to provide better traction in snow, on ice, and in cold temperatures.

What's the difference between all-season/summer tires and winter tires?

Winter tires have...

  • Deeper treads and more grooves to manage snow and slush better.
  • More sipes on the edges to improve traction on ice.
  • Grooves designed to evacuate snow, water, and slush.
  • Specific rubber composition, tread pattern, and biting edges.

Most importantly, while all-season/summer tire tread stiffens and becomes less able to provide sufficient traction in cold temperatures, winter tire tread remains flexible below 45 degrees.

This improves traction, handling, and braking in all cold weather conditions.

winter tires explained FAQ all-season vs winter

Do I need winter tires if my vehicle has all-wheel or four-wheel drive?

All-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles are great for getting through deep snow.

However, without winter tires, braking and turning can be just as dangerous for all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicles as it is for two-wheel drive vehicles. All-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles are better than two-wheel drive vehicles during winter driving conditions but are even more effective when combined with winter tires.

Are winter tires a wise investment?

Yes, winter tires are a very wise investment, especially if you're driving along mountain highways and spending the majority of the winter in a cold climate. This is not just for your safety and peace of mind but for your fellow travelers.

You don't want to be the one driving during a winter storm along I-70 in Colorado or up Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah with summer tires on that could lead to an accident and road closure.

Download the free OpenSnow app for the most accurate snow forecast and snow report information and stay tuned to our weather forecasts for the latest updates.

Sam Collentine

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About The Author

Sam Collentine


Sam Collentine is the Chief Operating Officer of OpenSnow and lives in Basalt, Colorado. Before joining OpenSnow, he studied Atmospheric Science at the University of Colorado, spent time at Channel 7 News in Denver, and at the National Weather Service in Boulder.

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