IMO AWD is important for moving forward (vs stopping or staying on the road). Especially moving uphill. We have a steep driveway in the mountains. Without AWD, we would rarely get up it during winter, which would leave us carrying our stuff 600 feet, uphill and down. Ok for me when solo but when travel with the family we are talking many many trips.
We can sand the driveway and do, but it would have to be done a lot more, and it's expensive.
I'm running all season, a mostly workable compromise for my situation.
"You just need to go at that shit wide open, hang on, and own it." —Camp
AWD + Winter Tires if you really want to know you'll make it.
Regarding "Snow TIres", based on Consumer Reports I bought the Falcon Euro Winters as they were rated higher on dry pavement, but slightly worse in snow than something like the Blizzaks. Unless you're on unplowed streets all the time, you still want tires that can stop on highway pavement.
I just bough a VW so I'm biased, but older Subies are known to blow head gaskets on those boxer engines.
I had a 1990 VW Passat that I bought new, I put 4 Gislaved(Swedish) snow tires on it, and it never stranded me. That was back in the days when I went north 3 weekends a month, and you could count snow on one of your travel days.
Currently on my 3d Subie, with Nokian snow tires. FWIW, this is the first one where I've had to replace the head gasket. Although it should be noted that I've had to replace the catalytic converters on every one that I've owned. I tend to drive cars till the wheels fall off; this one has 201k miles.
Thinking about a used diesel Jetta while keeping the Subie.