AWD doesn't help you turn or stop, so I would (and did) put snow tires on. It was a big big difference in traction. In fact AWD makes steering even worse I found over my RWD BMW I used to have. You get a lot more push in the front end in the snow.
Maybe people used to drive without them, but people also used to put their kids in the back of the station wagon with no seatbelts. Times have changed. People these days drive like idiots. If I a set of snow tires will allow me to avoid on of them, it was money well spent.