I have snow tires for my mazda 3 as well. I don't know the model but they are from General Tire. If you haven't driven a true snow tire, then you don't know what you are missing. All seasons don't compare. I don't think I would ever go back to an all season.
But, if I was running up the mountains, I would want AWD. The next vehicle I replace is my mini-van. It will be replaced with an AWD Toyota Venza. I saw one when I was in Fargo sandbagging this last weekend and it looks so awesome! Seeing one in person sealed the deal.
No forester's. My wife wants one, and I don't like them. She will go crazy if she sees this post and rub it in my face.
Keep the vehicles coming though. It's painting a picture in my mind.
That's an unfortunate way to rule out one of the best performing and best looking snow vehicles on the road. I've been researching them since I arrived in Oregon about 9 months ago and have found the Forester XS to be the best all around vehicle so far. It has storage, comfort, performance, reliability and daily driver needs. You can't do any better in my opinion. You may want to reconsider whatever prejudices you may have.
P.S. Your wife sounds like a smart lady. Maybe she should have some say in the matter.
EDIT: I read the part where you chose the Legacy. Excellent call. If you get the Outback edition, you will love it. Post some pics in the Off Topic board after you buy.