I'm currently living in Holland, Michigan, and we get quite a bit of snow (lake effect from Lake Michigan). I purchased a Giant AnyRoad CoMax this past summer which is great for commuting in all seasons other than winter.
This past week, however, I attempted to commute with 1-2" snow on the ground and dumped it four times in two commutes (ouch! my hip still hurts), so I don't think that's an option for the winter. It's mid-December now, and I'm already getting cabin fever, so here are the options I'm considering for Winter/snow commuting:
1) Snow tires for my spring/summer/fall bike: This is the option I'm least inclined towards for at least two reasons, for one, when riding on my other seasons bike in the snow I got the idea changing the tires alone will not be sufficient for 1+" of snow, and for two, to avoid changing tires often this would require a 2nd set of rims (and 2nd cassette, brake rotors, etc.), at which point I'd suppose it would be better to get a second bike altogether.
2) 27.5" or 29" mountain bike: This seems to be the best option. I don't need something super high end, rather I'd be looking for something mid-range that could be used perhaps 30-40 times a year when there is snow and will get me where I'm going, for example here are some possibilities:
3) Fat tire bike: This is the option I'm least considering as these seem to be very expensive, and I'm not sure huge tires are necessary for light snow.
4) Any other suggestions?? (other than moving to California which is not an option at the moment)
I guess the decision really comes down to which size/type of tire is best for commuting in 1-2" snow with possible occasional ice patches, 27.5" or is 29" necessary/suggested?