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It is the wide tire more than the rim size ...

To further what is said above ... the wider your tire is, the bigger the contact patch will be. Great for improved traction in the dry, but the tire contact patch exerts less wieght per square unit of measure (less lbs per sq inch). In rain, snow or ice, a smaller contact patch (and good tread depth) will "bite" better in snow and evacuate water better in rain / ice. So it is not the rim size, but the tire contact patch size that matters most. But the 17s are typically all about wide tires, so I guess you can say its related. A 15 will be much narrower with taller aspect ratio to maintain the same overall diamter as the 17.
According to Bridgestone, tires with the proper rubber compound can grip on ice, but a small layer of water on ice eliminates traction, hence their claims about Blizzaks design to evacuate the water layer and provide ice tracton better than studs. I know Hakka Qs are popular on the Vortex, I have been happy with the Blizzaks I have used. Ice is a bigger problem than snow in the area where I live, we seem to get freezing rain sometimes followed by snow more often than just snow. And they clear the snow pretty quickly, which often leaves behind slush and ice is still the real problem. And I can't say enough good things about the Blizzaks on ice. I get a big chuckle driving around all the SUVs sliding around in the ice with their all season tires. Not bad on snow either, definately an improvment over all seasons! Work pretty darn good in rain too, but they tend to suck in the dry - can you say tread squirm? But I imagine most snows exhibit tread squirm sloppy feeling in the dry, its the compromise for the improved grip when the road is fubar.
 
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