Colorado-winter-tire-chainsAs winter sets in, the age-old debate is kicking back up: Which is better for navigating Colorado winter roads, snow tires or snow chains?

For those of you new to the discussion, some definitions are in order. Snow tires are a special set of tires outfitted with holes where snow studs can be fitted. These studs allow the tires to gain better traction when driving over snow or ice.Snow chains, or tire chains, are usually sold in pairs and come in different sizes based on tire diameter and tread width. They fit all the way around the tire, giving wheels an extra grip on slippery roads.

Both options give motorists a much-needed edge when venturing out in Colorado winter driving conditions. But issues like road wear, expense, and safety concerns divide many on which backup is best.

One major concern is which option creates the least damage to roads. Both snow studs and chains take their toll on pavement, gradually wearing down the roadway as hundreds of thousands of motorists commute during the winter months. The consensus is that studded snow tires cause the most damage, and must be swapped out with summer tires when the weather warms up. Chains must also be removed when there isn’t sufficient snow or ice on the pavement.

Both snow tires and snow chains take a bite out of your wallet, but the price of snow chains remains significantly lower than the cost of snow tires. Though once you’ve had your tires put on, the upkeep is minimal- a small fee is charged by a tire technician for stud attachment and removal- the initial cost for a set of four tires ranges from $500 to $700. On the other hand, the cost of a pair of snow chains is in the neighborhood of $50 to $100, and you install them yourself—but be aware that driving with chains reduces your fuel efficiency.

As far as safety is concerned, both options improve your traction on icy or snowy roads. Snow tires with studs significantly increase your stopping power on ice, and improve your grip while climbing or descending slippery Colorado winter roads. A set of snow tires gives you roughly the same stopping time and traction as a set of snow chains on the drive wheels of your vehicle. However, if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, chains should be installed on all four wheels of your vehicle—and this gives you the safest ride of all, with excellent traction and stopping time.

While snow tires remain an option worth considering, snow chains are likely your best bet for keeping you and your passengers safe on Colorado winter roads. Make sure you’ve purchased a pair and know how to put them on before you drive into a blizzard, not after. For more information on winter driving with snow chains or snow tires, or to contact a Colorado tire technician or transmission repair mechanic, go to