Firstly I should mention I hate SUVs, I hate how they are big, pretentious and are so rarely used. NO, going to the snow once a year does NOT justify driving your gas gussler around a city by yourself every other day of the year. That being said, if your going to buy an SUV, I'd say the RAV4 is about your best bet.
It handles about as well as any SUV I've driven, save perhaps the Forester which is basically a raised impreza. However, the traction control is rediculous. I'm a... spirited driver, and love sliding my car around corners. This simply isn't possible with the traction control in the RAV4, at the slightest sign of slippage it cuts all power, which is downright scary if your used to something like the impreza where you actually steer it around the corner (once its sliding) by using the gas pedal.
The space inside is pretty impressive, the back seets are comfortable even for someone 6' 4", and theres ample cargo room for 5 peoples worth of gear. I've driven the car up to Tahoe about 20 times this year, mostly with five people in it, and it does quite well. its got the get-up-and-go to pass people on 80, and the handling to feel comfortable going around corners at 80 (which I certainly cannot say about the xterra).
In summary, I think its an amazing car (for an SUV), and gets pretty good gas mileage to boot, the only real issue I've come across (besides the incessant beeping) is the overly aggressive traction control, which is perfectly fine if you've never slid a car before, but I honestly think that for someone who's got experience in the snow, its more dangerous than not having one.