What is a Winter tire vs a Snow tire?

I fear that few people know the difference and as such can not understand that there is a difference. The following address should help. I believe it is worth the trouble of learning the difference.

Agreed. I have owned both and the difference is drastic.


I’m sorry, but the guy who wrote the article doesn’t know what he is talking about. I read about a third of the article and encountered so many errors I had to stop. Here are a couple of key points:

For the purposes of this discussion, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) is going to be considered the definitive source of information. The RMA is a voluntary organization made up of tire manufacturers based in Washington, DC. The organization not only represents tire manufacturers when it comes to government regulations, but also address issueses common to ALL tire manufacturers. Every tire manufacturer with a significant presence in the US is a member.

In order for a tire to use the letters “M” and “S”, the RMA says the tire must meet a definition that describes the tread pattern. Tires that meet this definition are called “All Season” tires. Interestingly, there are parts of the US where the term “All Weather” is used instead. This obviously creates confusion - particularly since the term “All Weather” is not defined by the RMA, nor is there common usage in the industry.

Also interestingly, nearly all “All Terrain” tires meet this definition and I think they all have these letters as well (I might be wrong on that!)

Then there is the “Mountain/Snowflake” synbol. There is a test that a tire must pass in order to use the symbol. It was originally intended to delineate between “All Season” and “Winter” tires - but it turns out that some “All Season” tires (that is, tires marketed as such) can pass the test - and some “All Terrain” tires can too!

So technically, the term “Winter” tire is somewhat vague. The term “Snow” tire has fallen out of favor - and there never really was any defintion that the industry even casually adopted, except for the old style luggy tread patterns - which have been replaced by the heavily siped tires now commonly referred to as “Winter” tires - and the old style “Snow” tires really can’t be found nowadays.

Capri Racer, Thank You For The Interesting and Useful Information And For Setting Things Straight. I Know You Have Made Your Career In The Tire Industry And Trust Your Information.

" Then there is the “Mountain/Snowflake” synbol. There is a test that a tire must pass in order to use the symbol. "

" . . . - but it turns out that some “All Season” (M&S) tires (that is, tires marketed as such) can pass the test - . . . "

How can I find which All Season tires can pass the test that would qualify them for the “Mountain/Snowflake” synmbol ? Are there any that have the symbol ?


P.S. So if I’m understanding this, there is no distinct lines between tire types, but rather the tires range from one designation to another in degrees as based upon testing. Am I understanding this ?


There may be others, but I know that the Goodyear Fortera Triple Tred “all-season” tire carries the “Mountain Peak/Snowflake symbol” because of its excellent traction in winter conditions.

A friend of mine bought a set of these tires last year, at my suggestion, because the so-called all-season Yokohama tires on his Rav-4 were very poor in winter conditions. The difference between the Yokos and the Triple-Treds was like night and day in terms of winter traction.

No matter what the definition…Just because the area you live in an area that gets snow…doesn’t mean you need snow tires…

It really comes down to the amount of snow and the frequency of snow on the roads you drive on. If you live in Boston, but drive to Vermont every weekend for skiing then snow tires are probably a good idea.

But if you live in Southern NH or Boston and don’t drive outside this area much then I really question the NEED for snow/winter tires. I’ve been living here for 30 years…and I’ve seen maybe 3 winters where snow/winter tires would have been nice on my wifes fwd vehicles. Just so few days of actually driving on roads that have ice or snow or slush…Sure when we get snow the roads can be slick…but so far…wife has NEVER EVER had one incident of even getting stuck or an accident in her fwd vehicles with all-season tires. Snow/winter tires here in NH are more of a convenience.

Now go to the Great Lakes region where there are 3-4 times as many days of snow and also the Lake effect snow storms just show up with no warning…then snow/winter tires become a necessity.

“Need” is a very difficult thing to define, as it is an individual consideration.

Some folks would say that you only need to carry…let’s say…$30 in your wallet, while others would feel insecure if they left the house with less than $75 in their wallet.

Some folks avoid immunizations, such as flu shots, and seem to be able to avoid major illness. Other folks faithfully get a flu shot every year because it makes them feel more secure.

Some folks would say that you only have to save X amount of money for your retirement years, while others might feel that they need 3X in order to be secure.

In a similar fashion, if someone feels that he/she needs winter tires–even if he does not live in the Great Lakes region–then he/she does need them, according to his/her own set of values and his/her own sense of security.
I would not presume to tell someone else what they do or do not need when it comes to something that represents security and safety to them.

“Need” is a very difficult thing to define, as it is an individual consideration.

EXACTLY…it’s a personal choice…but there are people here who say if you live in NH…then you NEED snow/winter tires…From my 30+ years of driving here in NH…I say NOT…But where I grew up and visit at least ONCE every winter…then from my personal experience…you NEED snow tires. But that may NOT be the case for everyone. I have an Aunt that lives in the same town I grew up in…She doesn’t NEED snow tires on her car…because she puts the car in storage from Late October to late April.

VDCdriver, Thanks.

I checked and my search shows that the Goodyear Fortera Triple Tred is " Goodyear’s innovative Highway All-Season light truck tire developed to give pickup, van and sport utility vehicle … " and is not sized for our family fleet of FWD passenger cars.

So, back to my slightly modified question . . .
How can I find which All Season [passenger car] tires can pass the test that would qualify them for the “Mountain/Snowflake” synmbol ? Are there any that have the symbol ?


We recently bought new tires for our Lexus ES-350…

Continental ExtremeContact DWS

These tires have the Mountain/Snowflake symbol. They are an all-season tire…They dry and wet driving is EXCELLENT…Don’t know about snow yet. But from different reviews they seem to be good.

Mike, Thanks. I’m Checking Them Out At Tire Rack.

These don’t come sized for our cars, either.

This was gimmicky, but interesting, though. "The ExtremeContact DWS features Tuned Performance Indicators — visible letters molded into the second rib from the outboard shoulder to alert drivers of the tire’s performance levels. A visible “DWS” indicates the tire has sufficient tread depth for dry conditions, as well as wet roads and light snow. After the “S” has worn away, the remaining “DW” indicates the tire only has sufficient tread depth for dry and most wet road conditions. And after the “W” and “S” have both worn away, the remaining “D” indicates the tire has appropriate tread depth for dry conditions only. "

Still looking . . .


These don’t come sized for our cars, either.

Sorry they didn’t have your size…They so far are a pretty good tire…

Let you know in 3 years how well they held up.

The ExtremeContact DWS do not have the snowflake symbol the RMA is referring to. I own a set on my wife’s Subaru Legacy GT. They are very good in the winter conditions for a performance all-season tire. We have 25k and they are wearing very well and remain quiet.

However they do not even come close in winter conditions to our prior(50k miles) excellent year round Nokian WR G2 all-weather tires with the snowflake affixed. However the $200 price differential from Nokian and Continental lead us to try them.

The DWS portion of tire is gimmicky. However if you need a reasonable priced winter capable all-season tire decent all around in a performance tire size (low profile of 40 series - 55 series) they are it. IMHO all-seasons generally are terrible in the performance sizes in winter conditions.

I’ve always considered “snow” tires to by those with deep tread blocks and lots of relief and “winter” tire to be those with siping (for icy roads), but I’ve noticed that most people use them interchangably. Perhaps my “snow tire” interpretation is leftover from a time when all we had was bias plys and siping didn’t come molded in. I’ve tried to get in the habit of using the term “winter tire”, but I’m too old a dog to be learning new tricks. I suspect there’s a lot of seniors that, like me, continue with the term “snow tire”.

I should point out, by the way, that the author of the linked article is wring in Canada for the Candian audience. He may in his article be referring to Canadian standards that we’re unfamiliar with.

Could be right…I’ll have to check tonight when I get home.

I had looked at a couple websites…and they said the DWS had the symbol…but the DW didn’t…I’ll report back tomorrow.

Winter tires are simply tires that are optimized not only to work in winter conditions like ice and snow by tread design/compound but on dry and wet cold days(<40F) were they also exhibit better gripping, cornering and stopping capabilities and remain quiet also compared to an all-season tire.

Snow tires simply were deep tread blocks that were also able to accept studs for ice. However on dry days they suffered with poorer dry and wet handling. Also another nasty by product was noise. I believe a few makers and off brands still offer these as bargain basement snow tires.

So I think some advise about winter/snow tires is dated from folks and understandably.


I don’t know of anyone who has compile a list of non-winter tires that have the Mountain/Snowflake symbol. I know that some tires have the symbol that aren’t technically winter tires. I also know that there are non-winter tires that can pass the test and COULD be using the symbol, if the tire manufacturer chose to do so.

I am also aware that the folks in Europe are not keen on the Mountain/Snowflake symbol. I strongly supect it is a “Not Invented Here” type of thing.


It may be true that the writer of the article Joe mention is in Canada writing for a Canadian audience, but he is still in error saying that the “M” and “S” means nothing. It has a relatively specific meaning - and it refers to the RMA definition of what consitutes an “All Season” tire.

By the way, the Rubber Association of Canada (RAC) is the functional equivalent to the RMA (a US based organization) - and the RAC works very closely with the RMA. For practical purposes these organizations can be considered in lockstep.

Here’s a link to their web site.


Notice that they share many of the same logos - the “Be Tire Smart” is just an example.

I noticed that they have a listing of tires that have the Mountain/Snowflake symbol and there may be some non-winter tires in the mix. I also notice that the list is somewhat dated.

And returning to the issue of snow vs winter tires. I think we all have an idea of what a snow tire is - and it differs from what our idea of a winter tire is. However, the terms are less than precise and the industry hasn’t come out with anything definitive - except for the Mountain/Snowflake symbol. Personally, I think trying to parse the difference is silly - and fruitless. The terms are pretty much interchangeable at the consumer level.

Thanks Capri. Cool link. That RAC list of winter tires might be a good reference for the OPs who inquire.

I noticed too that they are still 0.3% of the market buying non-radial passenger tires. Those must be the restored classics market that Coker serves.

I noticed also that carbonated parafins have been determined to be persistent and non-biodegradable. It sounds like a change in compounds is in the near future.

After doing some more research, I have come to the conclusion that the industry does not have a meaningful tire classification.  

There seems to be a general agreement that modern winter/snow tyres are helpful in winter, but there is not and real measuring tool to help the consumer to make an good decision. 

 In the mean time I guess about the best we can do is to look for recent test performed by independent authorities.  So I suggest anyone looking to buy winter/all season, or snow tires, should do their homework.  

 The good news is that the newer tyres are much better based on my experience.