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I live in Toronto, Canada and we get a lot of snow so I always put on snow tires during the winter. The main difference is that snow tires have a softer rubber compoung which allow them to deform from their natural shape and conform to the snow and ice that lies beneath the tire. The more tire surface touching the road, the more traction.

Winter tires are also made form an entirely different compound than all season tires. All seasons are effective up until -15 degrees celsius. After the temperature drops below -15 the tires rubber begins to harden and conforms less and less to the road surface. Winter tires are extremely effective up until -40 degrees celsius, thus allowing for the added traction in the winter.

The tread pattern designs play a large part in the tires performance. Winter tires generally have larger tread blocks with many sipes cut out of them. This shape gives the tire more bitting power through snow and the added ability to get rid of water in a hurry.

My first set of snow tires were Bridgestone Blizzaks. These tires were amazing but wore out very quickly because they were extremely soft. They lasted me 3 winters. I am now running Pirelli 210 snowsports (I don't even know if they make them anymore)

If you want to learn more about tires try www.tirerack.com.
 
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