Outdoor

Snow is coming, seize it: Blizzak Winter Tire Overview

Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires have proven their worth after a season of testing in the snow-capped mountains of Colorado.

Sometimes we just don’t get the memo. Somehow, incredible products just slip past our radar. And then they appear and we wonder why it took so long to discover their existence.

It was like that for me with Bridgestone Blizzak tiresthat have been around for over 20 years. I hope this review will serve as an awakening for you to an incredible set of winter tires.

Blizzak Winter Tires Review: The Discovery

In spring 2019 I was on duty for GearJunkie to report on the new Toyota AWD-e Prius. A group of journalists were invited by Toyota to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to drive the new Prius and RAV4 on the Bridgestone Winter Driving School’s snow track.

The track is carefully built and maintained with rolling hills, sharp and gentle curves, and long, enticing straights. My anger in my coverage of the AWD-e Prius was the fact that our hosts swapped the production tires for Bridgestone Blizzaks. It seemed to me that there was going to be a skewed perspective on how this Prius would do it handle on slippery roads. And it did.

After that event in Steamboat, Bridgestone handled my request and sent me some newly published ones WS90 Blizzak winter tires. I tested them out on my 2012 AWD GMC Terrain over the winter to guide my adventurous family through a series of ski trips and life in the Colorado Front Range over the winter.

The thin one

The short story is that the Blizzaks have proven to be incredible winter tires. We didn’t have any problems when driving on roads with compact snow or wet slush. There were no problems on dry roads either – the tires are quiet and completely sufficient for family-friendly driving. They did well even on dirt roads, be it dry and dusty or wet and messy.

The main disadvantage that applies to all softer rubber winter tires is that they wear out relatively quickly compared to the harder compound of summer tires.

But the new one WS90, released May 2019, features a redesigned tread pattern to extend the use of the tires for an additional season in normal use (defined as 7,200 miles per season: 1,200 miles per month from October to April). From USD 103 per tire, they are exactly in the range of other winter tire prices – a worthwhile investment in safety.

The test dilemma

The trick with winter tires that work as they should is that there aren’t any special moments to notice when they’re working properly. We only notice when the tires are slipping and call it a mistake – and it is really the driver who has failed. It is the driver who selected the tires and then went out or drove in conditions that are beyond the capabilities of the tire.

We regularly drove on sketchy roads and never let the tires slip out from under us. Only in rare cases did I drink too much gasoline during a stop and let the tires spin a little before I grabbed and drove off.

WS90 tires

Test conditions for Blizzak winter tires

Our winter tire testing period lasted from October through May and covered 7,103 miles of roads with various conditions. We did the 50 mile loop up to Boulder Canyon to the Eldora Ski Area most of the weeks it was open, and in the middle of the season the roads were slippery with compact snow all the way.

Otherwise we would be on dry roads that were always snow-covered up to the last few kilometers. We also made several trips deeper to the Colorado Rockies for skiing and other winter adventures.

We drove on open roads at freeway speeds and traversed wind-strewn, compact, snow-covered roads to cross some of the larger mountain valleys such as Park County, Arkansas Valley, Roaring Fork Valley to Snowmass and the always sketchy Berthoud Pass to Grand County.

But in between all of those mountain adventures, we’ve dealt with snowy days in town doing the usual daily errands. Like many streets in the neighborhood, ours is not plowed. Rather, it becomes a smooth, glazed surface of compact snow in the middle and walls of snow on the sides.

Even the main passes get slick, and while we do what we can to not ride in these conditions, we still sometimes end up out there. The Blizzak winter tires I felt safer than in previous years when I drove with studded tires.

Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires

Blizzak tire history

The Blizzak tire was first released in Japan in 1988. It became the preferred winter tire over studded tires in Japan and the newest version, the WS90, was released in May 2019. The WS90 replaced the WS80which was released in 2014. They also have a new tread pattern that gives the tire a longer useful life. The WS90 Blizzaks Retails from $ 90-200 each depending on the tire size.

It also has a new rubber compound that incorporates the company’s patented multi-cell technology. The Multi-cell technology has microscopic hydrophilic cavities to attract water and pull it away from where the tire hits the ice to improve grip. The WS90 also has a new interlocking sipe pattern in the tread of the tire that Bridgestone calls EdgePerformance Technology. This creates more edges for the tire to grip the surface.

All in all, I’m preparing to put these Bridgestone Blizzak tires back on my terrain for the coming season. And since testing, I’ve inherited a 2WD Toyota Prius V, so I’m going to buy the Prius a set too.

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