Originally published January 29, 2013

Review and photos by Haney Louka

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Pirelli Winter IceControl Tires

Pirelli Winter IceControl Tires
Pirelli Winter IceControl Tires. Click image to enlarge

The numbers are in, and they don’t look good.

An early December article in the Winnipeg Free Press revealed that only 20 percent of the vehicles on Manitoba’s roads are equipped with winter tires. That’s the lowest rate in the country.

It is easy to come up with reasons Manitobans don’t need to drive on dedicated winter rubber. After all, it’s a lot of money up front. Manitoba doesn’t have the hills, ice, and snow that drivers in other parts of the country contend with. And, of course, this isn’t Quebec, so it’s not against the law to drive without winter tires. So all you need to do is drive for the conditions and you’ll be just fine, right? Well, yes, if you neglect the possibility that a successfully executed emergency maneuver means the difference between a close call and a collision.

But if there’s anything the last couple of months have taught the residents of southern Manitoba, it’s that we can have lots of snow, way too much ice, and that there are plenty of opportunities during winter for inadequate traction to really mess things up.

Pirelli Winter IceControl Tires
Pirelli Winter IceControl Tires. Click image to enlarge

Browsing through online comments and forums, it’s clear that winter tires have their proponents, but what is also clear, and frankly alarming, is that misinformation about winter tires abounds. Many write the winter tire industry off as nothing more than a successful marketing campaign or a cash grab that preys on the gullible, but I can assure all winter tire naysayers that this is not the case.

My first winter tire purchase was for a 1989 Nissan 240 SX; a rear-drive car that I bought in January of 1996 with performance-oriented all-season rubber that must have just barely passed the provincial safety inspection for tread depth.

The car was totally useless in the slick stuff, which didn’t help my then-fiancé who was just learning how to drive a stick (she did learn, and she still married me, so all is well). Traction was so limited that this then-student ponied up several hundred of his own dollars to fit a set of first-generation Bridgestone Blizzaks to the car. When I first pulled away from the tire store and onto Pembina highway that snowy evening, it only took about five seconds for me to realize that this was a completely different car with proper winter boots on.

The point of all of this is that I don’t sell winter tires, and I certainly don’t stand to benefit financially when I tell others to buy winter tires. I recommend them because they make a real difference no matter what you drive.

Proper winter tires, identified by a snowflake-on-mountain symbol, possess rubber compounds (with secret recipes that are highly guarded by the individual tire companies) that won’t turn to rock when the mercury drops. It’s easy to see the difference for yourself: visit a tire store and push your thumb into the tread of an all-season tire and then into a winter tire. One is squishy; one isn’t.

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