Unlike on paved roads the ABS system is actually worse at stopping in the snow than soft braking.
As a general rule of thumb, the more modern safety features that a car has, the safer it is to drive when the conditions are anything but favorable. That being said, the rule isn’t something that applies to every scenario. Case in point, the ABS system. Anti-lock brakes were initially designed to help a driver turn under hard braking, (impossible if the front tires are locked up) as well as to reduce the distance it takes to stop a car given that static friction has more hold than kinetic friction.
These two goals are easily attained by an ABS system on a paved road, but when the road gets a fresh blanket of snow, the stopping strategy needs to change. Tim O’Neil of Trick O’Neil Rally School shows us firsthand with the following demonstration.
In it, he proves that ABS systems aren’t designed to mingle with the snow too well, which means that drivers traversing the white stuff must exercise caution and use prudence with the brake pedal. To slow down more quickly, one must actually brake softly in order to not activate the anti-lock system, an act that goes against all reflexes and common intuition. Scary as it may sound, the technique brings the vehicle to a standstill in less distance than an ABS system can manage. The trick also works to help a driver take corners under braking since the wheels aren’t busy locking up. Keep this in mind next time you’re in Montreal.