Snow tires in Flagstaff?

My son is a freshman at NAU up in Flagstaff. He just purchased a used Ford Escape (2 wheel drive) and I’m about to deliver it to him. Even though the tires are in very good shape, I’m debating having a set of tires with a more aggessive tread installed on it before I take it up there.

If anyone out there lives in and/or is familiar with winter driving in Flagstaff, I’d appreciate your $0.02 on the need for snow-type tires. I’m told only the main streets are plowed. For a kid who has never driven in snow, are regular tires a problem?

Being a front wheel drive vehicle, if I purchase snow tires, I’ll have to put them on all four corners. Pretty expensive, but if the others are dangerous it’s a no brainer. Thanks.

I’ve never lived there, but I spent a couple of weeks there in the winter once. It didn’t snow at all when I was there, but the impression I got from the locals is that even though they’re one of the snowiest cities in the country in terms of raw snowfall, the temperatures aren’t generally low enough for it to really stick around. So they get occasional snowstorms that might sock in the place for a day or two, but things are usually cleared out pretty fast. Every once in a blue moon they’ll get a serious snowfall that sticks around and accumulates, and I’m not sure if the La Nina suggests this year will be one of them or not.

So I’d say if he’s living on or near campus and it won’t be a problem if he’s unable to drive for a day or two (and he’s not a skiier), a good set of all-seasons should be fine. So long as you emphasize “slow down” as the main rule of winter driving, just driving around town shouldn’t be too dangerous in terms of risk of bodily harm. It might be a good idea to keep collision coverage on the car, though! I’d only really be worried if situations will arise where he has to drive on the highway in the snow.

I live in an area of the country where we get 4-6 snow/ice storms a year, substantially farther north than Flagstaff. The city only plows the main streets. Hardly anyone switches to snow tires in the winter here. An all weather tire should suffice.

Safe driving on snow and ice, is not about getting traction and moving, its about safely slowing down and stopping.

Note that Arizona will often require chains on highways during snowstorms. I strongly recommend snow tires, or at least all-weather tires, and get a set of chains if going out of town (or up to Snowbowl).

You might get him a set of Bridgestone Blizzak tires. I had them on my Chrysler in Anchorage and thought they performed very well. That was an AWD of course.


I lived in Sedona for a couple of years, 45 minutes away from (and 2500’ lower than) Flagstaff. Yes, Flagstaff does get snow, and it does stick around sometimes. Remember, however, that living in a snowy location on the plains is much different than living in a snowy place in the mountains. Flagstaff itself is a little hilly, and outside town, it really is the mountains. I wouldn’t want to drive down Hiway 89A from Flagstaff to Sedona if it was snowing, even with snow tires or chains.

I’d recommend checking out what Consumer Reports says about snow tires vs. all weather tires. At the very least, a highly rated set of new all weather tires would be a good investment for YOUR peace of mind.