Which are best for winter driving-studs or snow tires?

Ask Dr. Flake

I'll tell you what's best: Getting from A to B and then getting the hell off the road. Have you seen the morons driving out there? I hear Colorado's thinking of renaming eastbound I-70 between Vail and Denver "The Vacuum of Intelligence Memorial Slow-way." My favorite is the cheapskate SUV driver who elected to buy the two-wheel-drive model and skids around thinking he's safe merely because he's 37 feet off the ground. Anyway, studs are the best way to grip ice and extremely hard-packed snow, but beware: Studs are illegal in some states, and they're soul-gnawingly loud. In dry times they also impair your traction by keeping rubber off the pavement. So, if your local access road is always snow-packed, go with studs, but otherwise Dr. Flake recommends a high-quality nonstudded version. Better snow tires have a second, softer rubber compound designed to provide traction on the slippery stuff. Also look for lots of sipes (little slices) that help to dispense water and provide multiple, ice-gripping edges. By the way, there's a new certification for snow tires called the Severe Winter Traction Standard. Tires that meet it are stamped with a telltale symbol any skier would love: a snowflake superimposed on a mountain.