Canada’s harsh winter conditions are no joke. Without reliable winter tires, winter driving can be incredibly dangerous.
12% of road fatalities and injuries in Canada are a direct result of poor road conditions in the winter, according to a 2016 study published by the Candian Medical Association Journal.
If you’ve been searching for the perfect snow tire, then you’re in the right place.
Below, I’ll outline some of the best winter tires in Canada, whether you’re looking for a standard studless snow tire or a heavy-duty studded tire for icy roads.
Snow Tires vs Studded Tires: What’s The Difference?
If you’re in the market to buy winter tires, you’ll come across two distinct options: studless snow tires and studded snow tires.
Both studless and studded winter tires provide superior traction in ice and snow. However, they achieve this through different mechanisms.
- Studded winter tires come equipped with metal studs embedded in the tread. These studs dig into icy surfaces and hard-packed snow, offering exceptional grip but potentially damaging road surfaces. Because of this, studded tires are restricted or prohibited in some areas.
- Studless winter tires, on the other hand, rely on advanced rubber compounds and specialized tread designs to achieve grip, allowing them to drive on dry or wet pavement. The tread pattern is specially engineered with deep grooves and multiple sipes (small slits) to bite into snow and eject water.
While studless tires excel on slush and deep snow, they may not provide the same level of grip as studded tires on sheer ice. However, they are more road-friendly and generally quieter during operation.
- Note – While winter tires can be costly upfront, you may be able to break their cost into affordable payments using programs such as Canadian Tire’s in-store financing program.
The Best Winter Tires: Snow Tires
If you live in a larger city or town where roads are salted and cleared regularly, icy roads may not be as prevalent, and studless snow tires often provide all of the traction you need to drive safely.
With that in mind, here are some of the top-rated snow tires you can get in Canada.
1. Michelin X-Ice SNOW Studless Tires
- Mileage Rating: 64,000 kms
- Key Features: Flex-Ice 2.0 rubber compound, cross-hatched siping, superior braking
The Michelin X-Ice SNOW is a studless winter tire designed to perform well in severe winter conditions.
Made with a special Flex-Ice 2.0 rubber compound, the tire remains flexible at extremely low temperatures, providing superior traction and grip on Canada’s snowy, icy, and slushy roads.
The tire’s unique tread design features deep grooves and multiple cross-hatched siping patterns, which force water/slush out, preventing build-up on the tires.
The outer tread blocks feature biting edges all around for better road contact when cornering and lane-switching.
The result of Michelin’s patented tread design is improved braking, acceleration, and cornering capabilities even in the harshest winter conditions.
Furthermore, the Michelin X-Ice SNOW is rated for 64,000 kilometres – a longer tread life compared to many of its competitors.
Since these tires are studless, they’re a quiet, road-friendly option and legal to use in all areas.
2. Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 Studless Snow Tires
- Mileage Rating: 64,000 kilometres
- Key Features: Improved longevity and biting edges compared to the previous WS80 model
The Bridgestone Blizzak WS90 is a studless winter tire designed for optimal traction and handling in extreme winter conditions.
These tires offer exceptional acceleration and braking on snow, as well as outstanding handling on snow-covered and icy roads.
The updated WS90 tires feature Bridgestone’s patented Multicell technology and an improved tread pattern that includes significantly more block edges compared to the previous Blizzak WS80.
These tires also feature 30% stiffer blocks in high-wear areas of the tread. This feature was added to help the tires last through a second winter season and save you money.
In addition to their superior winter performance, these tires are designed to provide a more quiet, comfortable ride compared to lower-quality snow tires, and they have a 4.7-star customer rating on Bridgestone’s official website.
3. Nitto Winter SN3 Studless Snow Tires
- Mileage Rating: 64,000 kilometres
- Key Features: Extra-durable tread wall, wide centre rib for highway stability
The Winter SN3 is Nitto’s premier studless snow tire designed for severe winter conditions. The tire is versatile and can be fitted on a variety of vehicles, including passenger cars, sport coupes, SUVs, and even some sports trucks.
The tires feature extra-deep inner blocks designed to hurl out snow, slush, and salt, while maintaining a wide, stable centre rib to help keep the tires stable at highway speeds.
The outer blocks of the SN3’s are extra-large and feature multiple sipes to provide enhanced cornering and prevent your tires from spinning out in busy intersections.
Another feature I particularly like about the Nitto Winter SN3 tires is that they’re designed to handle small road hazards.
Unfortunately, the ice and snow often hide small nails, screws, and shards of glass that can penetrate weaker tires, leaving you stranded with a flat.
The SN3’s feature an ultra-durable tread wall designed to resist penetration and keep you rolling straight to your destination.
4. Yokohama Ice Guard IG53 Studless Snow Tires
- Mileage Rating: 64,000 kilometres
- Key Features: Triple 3D tread blocks, low-heat-generating rubber for improved fuel efficiency/traction
Japanese-based Yokohama is one of the top-rated tire manufacturers in the world, favoured by street racers and daily commuters alike.
The Yokohama Ice Guard IG53 studless snow tires are designed to deliver solid winter performance without the use of studs. Instead, they feature a low-heat-generating rubber compound designed to remain supple in low temperatures.
The tires also feature zig-zag siping and diagonally-hatched tread blocks to facilitate the removal of snow, mud and road debris. They have a 4.9-star rating on Yokohama’s official website, and 100% of customers surveyed claimed they would buy these winter tires again.
The Best Studded Winter Tires
If you live in the slopes or a region of Canada that’s known for extremely icy roads, studded tires can quite literally save your life.
While they are more regulated (due to their propensity to damage roads in fair weather) and often more expensive, the extra traction can provide a lot more peace of mind.
5. Michelin X-ICE North 4 Studded Tires
- Mileage Rating: 64,000 kilometres
- Key Features: Less road noise than other studded tires, interlocking 3D tread sipes
Remember the Michelin X-ICE Snow tires that I mentioned above? Well, these are essentially the same tire with added studs for superior performance on hills, icy roads, and snow-compacted streets.
They’re also rated for speeds up to 189 km/h, which isn’t common among other studded tires.
The treads feature interlocking 3D sipes that are designed to attract minimal build-up while constantly pushing debris out into the deeper treads, where it can be thrown out onto the road, keeping your tires clean and functional in even the worst conditions.
Aside from Michelin’s premier rubber compound and innovative tread pattern, what really makes these studded snow tires stand out is how quiet they are.
One of the more annoying drawbacks of snow tires is how much road noise they create on hard surfaces. Unless you’re driving in a luxury car with superior soundproofing, the noise can often be so loud that it can be heard over the phone.
The latest generation of Michelin X-ICE North 4 tires features a redesigned stud placement designed to provide the same excellent grip and traction control while minimizing road noise.
6. Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10 Studded Tires
- Mileage Rating: 64,000 kilometres (five-year warranty with frequent rotation)
- Key Features: Staggered centre treads, designed for EVs and hybrids
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta 10 Studded Tires are a top-of-the-line option for extreme winter driving conditions.
Regarded for their exceptional grip and stability, these tires feature advanced studding technology that provides superior traction on ice and hard-packed snow. The tread design is very unique, and the grooves almost appear to mimic lightning bolts, angled diagonally to hurl snow and slush to the side.
Another neat feature is the staggered centre tread pattern, which can prevent compacted snow build-up, allowing for a smoother, more stable ride and reducing the risk of hydroplaning.
Nokian’s Hakkapeliitta 10 tires are one of the few studded snow tires on the market that were specifically designed with electric vehicles in mind. While they’ll work just fine with non-EV vehicles, these tires were designed to withstand the extra weight that batteries and electric motors put on tires. They’re also made with eco-friendly materials, making them a more “green” option than other winter tires.
- Related Reading: Is Buying A Hybrid Car Worth It?
7. Pirelli Winter Ice Zero Studded Tires
- Mileage Rating: 72,000 kilometres
- Key Features: Run Flat technology, designed for sports cars
Pirelli’s Winter Ice Zero studded tires are primarily designed for sports cars and SUVs. They offer extra-large tread blocks with superior siping and four-pronged studs designed to remove slush and snow, allowing the studs to grip the slippery ice below.
What really makes these tires stand out compared to other studded tires is that they’re engineered with Pirelli’s Run Flat technology.
If you catch a nail or encounter other road hazards that cause your tires to lose pressure, these tires have an ultra-strong tread wall that can support your vehicle at low to moderate speeds, allowing you to make it home or somewhere safe so that you can replace the tire.
- Fun fact – Pirelli is also trusted as Ferarri’s exclusive tire supplier, which is just another great reason to consider these tires.
Are Winter Tires Required By Law?
In most provinces and territories, purchasing winter tires is completely optional. While it’s certainly a wise choice, it’s not a legal requirement.
However, Quebec and British Columbia have instituted winter tire mandates requiring all drivers to have four winter tires on their vehicles during the following winter months:
- Quebec: December 1st – March 15th
- British Columbia: October 1st – April 30th
While Quebec requires winter tires for fewer months, the province has a stricter rule when it comes to winter tire ratings. All winter tires in Quebec must have the Three-Peak-Winter-Snowflake (3PMS) icon, indicating that the tires have undergone substantial tests for superior performance in icy conditions.
British Columbia regulations only require standard mud-and-snow (M+S) tires.
In both provinces, drivers can receive substantial fines and penalties if they’re caught driving without the appropriate tires. Winter tires cost a lot compared to your regular all-season tires, but the fines (and potential risks) aren’t worth the risk of skirting the law.
What Makes Winter Tires Different From All-Season Tires?
Some of the key differences between winter tires and all-season tires are:
- Rubber compound: Softer in winter tires for better flexibility at low temperatures
- Tread pattern: Deeper grooves and biting edges in winter tires for effective snow and slush removal
- Siping: These extra slits between tread blocks give the tires a stronger grip
- Temperature performance: Winter tires perform better at lower temperatures, whereas all-season tires become stiff and lose flexibility and grip as temperatures drop
- Versatility: All-season tires are designed for year-round use but compromise on specialized performance, whereas winter tires are specialized for cold, snowy conditions
Winter tires are specifically engineered to provide optimal performance in cold weather conditions, particularly on snowy, icy, and slushy roads.
Unlike all-season tires, which are designed for general year-round use, winter tires feature a softer rubber compound that remains flexible at lower temperatures, giving them better grip and traction on the road, especially when changing lanes or cornering.
The tread pattern on winter tires is also unique, featuring deeper grooves, additional slits, and more biting edges. This allows them to channel away snow and slush more effectively, so the tires don’t get caked up with ice and snow.
Driving with all-season tires in these conditions can compromise vehicle control, leading to longer stopping distances and higher risks of skidding.
Conclusion – What’s The Best Winter Tire Overall?
Over the years, I’ve tried a number of different snow tires, and most have performed to their expectations.
However, I particularly like Michelin’s X-ICE Snow studless tires and X-ICE North 4 studded tires.
Michelin is one of the best in the game, and many of their tires are manufactured in-country at one of the company’s plants in Nova Scotia and Quebec.
In addition to putting some quality winter “shoes” on your car, it’s also a good idea to rust-proof your undercarriage to prevent the salt from corroding your frame and suspension.
Be sure to check out my comparison of the top three rustproofing solutions in Canada next!