In years gone by, when Montana's weather took a wintery turn like last week it would mean an all-out rush to the local tire store, as drivers scrambled to be ready for the season's onslaught.

And while tire stores have been busy, it seems like an increasing number of Montana drivers seem content to let one kind of tire take care of whatever Mother Nature throws our way.

Of course, it also doesn't hurt that so many more cars on the road are equipped with all-wheel or four-wheel drive than 30 or 40 years ago.

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Can all-season tires finally "cut it"?

When all-season tires first hit the market in the 1970s, they represented quite a transition, with the idea that you could now mount a tire that wouldn't require all the biannual switching. However, those early tires, while convenient, were still pretty experimental, suffering from poor tread wear and easily overwhelmed by blizzards.

Jump forward 40 years and the improvement is remarkable. While there's still some compromise involved, mainly for performance driving, for everyday use all season seems to be the preferred, especially in Montana where you NEVER know what next week's weather will bring.

Unsplash; Blake Carpenter
Unsplash; Blake Carpenter

Last week on Facebook we asked what your tire of choice is, and by far most of the comments were in favor of all-season tires.

"I have rocked all-season tires since I started driving over 30 years ago. They have always worked for me." -Tanya Matthew

"Keep rocking those all-season tires all year long. Going on 34 years now." -Michelle Jorgensen

"All season on AWD does just fine!" -Amanda Corcoran

"I have only ever used snow tires one season. That was only because they were already on the car when I got it. I run all season. I have never had an issue. I have been driving on snow and ice way longer than I would like to say." -Kathleen Lynn Frisbie


All-wheel drive was the big game changer

I haven't seen Montana-specific numbers, but the explosion in all-wheel drive is a big factor here. Years ago when my first car was an old '51 Jeep that got me to the radio station faithfully, four-wheel-drive was rare. Now, the U.S. Department of Energy says the number of all-wheel-drive, or 4WD vehicles on the road soared over the past 10 years, hitting 59% in 2022. Today, my WRX equipped with Michelin Pilot Sports is a much safer choice (and hey, the heater works).

Dennis Bragg photo
Dennis Bragg photo

But some of you are still going for that "extra" traction advantage, so studs, stud-less (if you're not already rocking all-terrains on your 4WD truck) make all the difference, especially if you have THAT kind of driveway.

"Put them on Monday. I would rather be prepared and have all the advantages I can get to get to where I need to go. Snow tires make all the difference. I always run studs." -Liz Cook

"I just got my snow tires on my car last week, I run studless on mine and my car does amazing in the snow!" -Tiffany Pfleger

"I have mine on- I have lived in Montana my whole life and have always used snow tires- but I am on the highway quite a bit and have lived on nasty hills where all season do not work... and this is with all wheel drive." - Heather Mincey


There is another factor, especially this year

And that's inflation. While it's cool to be able to switch from all-season to studs at the sign of the first snowflake, that may not be affordable.

"All-terrain all year round, never had an issue and tires are expensive enough already, I'm not buying another set." - Caitlynn Yorks

"Snow tires? I cannot afford two sets of tires. All Season tires have been all I need." - Lee Flanigan

"Got ‘em last week! My summer tires were shot anyway." - Juli Imel Mc Lain


No excuse to speed/no dashing (you're not driving a sleigh!)

Whatever you're driving through this coming Montana winter, remember even the best tires, and drive systems, are no guarantee you'll be safe. That only comes with care, caution, and speed to match the conditions as the Montana Highway Patrol reminds us

READ MORE: Ever try this "old school" tire hack?

LOOK: Most dangerous states to drive in

Stacker used the Federal Highway Administration's 2020 Highway Statistics report to rank states by the fatalities per billion miles traveled. 

Gallery Credit: Katherine Gallagher

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