I can't help but respond to this one.
Snow Tires now and days have become so advanced that I wonder if it becomes important if you have front wheel drive or rear wheel drive. I will tell you that if you handle an old saab in snow, ou should be able to the same with a 300TD wagon with snow tires. The only reason I say with a 300TD is because the diesels really don't have a quick punch like gas engines do, there for causing slippage under acceleration. As for when the car slips, the front wheels will stay planted and just keep the wheel pointed in the direction you want to go. With Front Wheeld Drive, when the wheels slip, you also loose steering control which is one minus. But FWD is better in snow because the engine's weight keeps the tires better planted.
My adivce for Alaska thought is 4wd with snow tires. Tell me what your price range is, and I am sure we will be able to give you some good advice. I have an ML430, and have seen some of the major car magazines drive the ML430 with snow tires, and they have nothing but praise. The M-class' 4wd system is the most advance one available, so that would be my advice, and M-class. If you need something cheaper, I would say a used Audi quattro. The Benz 4mattics are hard to find, but if you do find one, its probably not much cheaper then an M-class unless if its older for which you can find an Audi for much better pricewise.
P.S. I had an Audi (I know) I can say thought they are built with German excellence like BMW, and Benzes are.
Chirag (Charlie) Patel
99 Mercedes-Benx ML 430 V8 w/custom TV, Video, UHF, speaker system
93 190E 2.6 (4-sale) w/ an amp, equalizer, and CD-changer, integrated w. stock stereo for integrated cellular phone speaker system
2001 C-Class - Maybe (if 190E sells