I have a question about my 2011 Subaru outback wagon. Would changing the wheel size from 16 to 17 affect the way my car would respond to hitting ice and antilock brake function? My car starting sliding and the brakes locked so I couldn't control the car- it ended up sliding into a stump, totaling my car.
In a word: No.
The wheels go round. The tires on those wheels provide traction. They allow the car to corner. It will not affect the ABS as long as all four tires on the wheels are the same size. I'm going to assume you put new tires on the new wheels which were the same rolling diameter as the original tires were. If so, then there is no feasible way the wheel change (and thus the tire change) had anything to do with the wheels locking up.
Here's the deal. Since the ABS system is looking at the differences between the rotational speeds of the four wheels, the ABS is pretty much worthless when all four wheels lose traction at the same time. When all wheels stop at the same time (lose traction), the ABS system believes all the wheels have stopped and therefore the car is stopped, and allows the wheels to stay locked up. Once this happens, it's all over but the crying. This would most likely never happen on gravel or on dry (or even wet) payment, because there's a lot more traction on those surfaces. When you're on ice (or packed snow) the traction can be lost a lot easier. This article on itstillruns.com backs up what I'm saying.
As is stated in this Jalopnik.com article:
... the softer the surface, the softer you brake.
There's a lot more skill to braking than just stomping on them. On ice and in snow, you still have to plan to stop sooner and accelerate slower. Just the laws of nature.