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We are trying to decide between a Scoobie Outback and a Prius for Northern New York. Of course the Outback will be better in snow, but contrasting 20mpg to 50mpg makes it a tough choice.

What real experiences do Northern people have with the Prius? As you know, we are a different bunch - 3-4 inches of snow is a laugh. A couple of weekends ago, our home area got 24 inches in less than two days.

We will not be busting trails, but if we get caught in a snowstorm away from home we want to be safe.

Welcome your experiences and counsel. Thanks.

David
 

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I'm writing from north-central Vermont, so I guess that makes me "real snow people". I don't have my Prius yet; picking it up January 2nd. But before I even got on the waiting list, my wife and I talked to several people, both locally and online, who live in this area or areas just as snowy. And you can see from the fact that we're still getting a Prius that the result was good.

Between the built-in traction control system, the optional (but highly recommended in snowy climes) VSC system, and the way the hybrid synergy drive and continuous variable transmission work, people have reported that the Prius handles snow very well. There's been a flurry (no pun intended) of posts in the last few weeks here with a common theme: "We just had our first snow since I got the Prius with VSC and I went out and tried to make it slip on the snow and couldn't."

Of course, be prepared for mileage to drop sharply during the snowy season. 50 is a good number for summer driving if you take the steps people recommend to maximize mileage, but you won't be getting that in winter. Keep in mind that Outback wouldn't be doing 20 in winter either. But when the slippery roads and cold air cut into your Outback's mileage, you're less likely to notice, and if you do, you won't make as big a deal out of losing a few MPG as you would losing three times as much on the Prius... even if that's almost exactly the same percentage.
 

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I imagine a set of snow tires would give you some added peace of mind. A fellow worker who lives in New Hamphire drives his sports car in winter, but with 4 snow tires.
 

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I live in Northern New York, near Canada. I bought Yokohama Ice Guard Snow tires and that car drives wonderfully through the snow!! I am so impressed and satisfied!
 

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David (and Hunter, since you live near my area),
My Prius has done adequately in the snow here in Vermont (commuting between the Middlebury and Barre areas). Equipped with 4 Hakkapelliita RSi snow tires, the traction has been fine on level to hilly roads. My commute to work takes me over a mountain gap that rises 1,300' in 3 miles. Today, I drove over it in a moderate to heavy snowfall with 1-2" accumulation on parts of the road (before the plow came through). I had to be very alert to accelerate correctly around hairpin curves, both going up (not too fast so as not to slide; not too slow so as not to lose traction uphill) and down (knowing when to slow down on a straightaway appoaching a hairpin curve). There was the feeling of lightness in traction around curves without really any sliding. The "swervy" traction warning only came on once. It went ok, but to be honest, I probably should have taken my Outback today.

Tires are important, both the type of snow tire, whether to go with studs, and the tire inflation. I could have gotten Hakkapelliita 2's which are more aggressive and they can be studded. I think I would definitely have better traction with that, but then a more noisy ride and lower fuel economy (the RSi's are a low rolling resistance tire). My inflation is a compromise between mileage and traction: 33/31.

Another factor to consider is the VSC option. I'd say a must for north country.

Fuel MPG is currently averaging around 44, down from 52 pre-December/pre-snow tires.

Bottom line in your area, while the Prius can be adequate for all but the worst conditions I would not go without at least a backup of AWD/4x4 in moderate to heavy snow conditions, especially in mountaineous terrain.
 
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