First off, AWD/4WD WILL NOT help you stop any better. It is better traction in the rain and snow.
I've lived in Colorado for a few years now (1 hr north of you) and all of our cars are FWD (moved here from FL). There have been only two days (in March 2003 with the 30"+ blizzard) that I have not been able to drive one of my cars. One of those days, no one was going anywhere. The other day, a friend who came to pick me up got stuck with her 4x4 Pathfinder.
Also, out here, they are better at plowing and clearing the roads. If GA gets a little snow (what we wouldn't think twice about), the roads become really nasty and they close the airport. Also, there's a lot more ice back east than we get out here.
I, personally, would go for the AWD, but that's just me. We keep cars forever and I wouldn't want to say "darn, I wish I had gotten the AWD one" a few years from now. Driving out to go snowshoeing or skiing, it's just a little bit extra insurance, a little more security, as long as you don't overdo it. I don't think you'll compromise your safety at all by buying a FWD, especially one with traction control. Do look and see what's available out here, as I think the only way to get a FWD is with a base 4-cylinder, which may or may not be what you're interested in.
On a side note, the chain laws out here only apply to commercial vehicles, I have negotiated the Eisenhower tunnel and Vail pass with my FWD Camry with all-season tires when the chain requirement was in effect.