I went for my first Pugsley adventure yesterday. Starting at about 2000', I rode up and knew I would hit snow. At 3000', the narrow, car traveled, granite gravel/sand double track I was on became packed snow. Others on small wheeled knobbies were doing what you describe, and I don't think I would have faired much better on 26ers. The Pugs rolled on, no slip/slide, no fuss, no muss. I could ride in and out of the snow ruts with very little sliding. I was running 10-12 psi. I think the big heavy wheels/tires/tubes alone are a pound donuts blunt the acceleration/deceleration with each crank revolution, and there is less breaking loose as a result.
At 3500' the other bike tracks stopped, and the Pugs kept rolling. I was only planning a 15 to 20 minute shakedown ride, but as long as I was still rolling I wasn't going to stop
The last 1.5 miles of this climb gain nearly a thousand feet according to my wrist altimeter and odometer on other bikes. There are stretches that I know exceed 15%. Despite 3-4 inches of snow, two inches old an icycrusty with 1-2 inches fresh wet snow on top, the Pugs laid down a big foot print and got traction on the compacted wet snow. You could year the ice crust of the lower snow cracking as you went. I don't think any narrow tire would have been able to get a bite on it, the Endomorphs got their traction by compressing a lot of wet snow and imprinting the tread in that, kinda like a snow cat track I think. Usually, on narrower knobbies (Vertical pros, Scorpions, Mosquitoes and others) I was used to the front end hitting a rut, slipping sideways 3", stomping on the pedals to try to keep balance and correct the abrupt turn, and have the rear break loose, stopping all forward progress. This was profoundly less of a problem on the Pugs. I finally did tip over 50 yards from where I usually turn around because I got in a snow/ice rut and got stopped, but I didn't spin out. By this time though I was beat and probably didn't have much oomph left, so my correction was fairly feeble. This was taking a lot longer than it usually does, right around 60-75 minutes when there isn't snow. I was probably 30 minutes beyond that, I didn't wear a watch because I wasn't going far when I set out. Didn't take a camera either, too bad because it was pretty.
Going back down I stuck to the road for the first 1.5 miles and worked up a little speed. Now i understand why it was hard work getting up: there is a lot of rolling resistance in that much snow. I was quite impressed how the Pugs tracked across ruts, and would hold traction in a 15mph downhill tight corner, leaned way further over than would have been possible on narrow knobbies. The Pugs made it easy. When I got down to where there was less snow and flew past some bikers on skinny tires slipping and twisting up the hill, the look on their face was priceless.
Back down at the 3500' level, I took the single track route most of the way back. Under the trees there were only occasional patches of slushy snow. More interesting were the tight switch backs, braking stutterbumps/ruts and some tight fast slalom between the trees work. The pugs rolled over and braked on the stutters better than small wheels, but keep your elbows and knees loose; when you do hit a good bump and get the Pugs bouncing up, it takes a few more inches for you to dampen that out than it does on a bike 10-12 pounds lighter. The tight stuff was no big deal, the Pugs just laughs at the narrow braking ruts the small wheeled bikes have made, and heads on around the corner. It does take more effort to turn, but not bad. On the other hand, small bumps dont cause deflection, the Pugs rolls over them. Less mid corner correction needed. On faster bigger turns the gyroscopic effect of the bigger wheels IS noticable, and the Pugs like to stand up if you brake leaned over.
I had a lot more fun on the Pugs than I would likely have had on a 26er with narrower knobbies(I havn't ridden my Walt Works 29er with Exi's in the snow so I can't compare to that yet. Less constant slipping/slidding/correcting. I stripped one of my favorite 26" FS bikes to build the Pugs, and then sold the frame today on ebay. I was feeling a little remorseful, until this ride. That bike was an Ellsworth Id, I thought I'd never stop riding it. When I got infected with rigid 29ers it hardly got any use, so I'm glad someone else will get it out and ride it. So I guess I went from the beauty to the beast, but I have no regrets.
Please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors, I'm too tired to proofread this.