Probably shoveling. Yeah, shoveling snow is so awesome. It’s the best. You should come over next time it snows. I’ll let you try it. Just don’t tell anyone else how awesome it is.
This post was written yesterday as part of a new project I’m working on… to be revealed in good time. In the meantime, I thought it was interesting enough to share… and enjoy
The snow was falling when I woke up this morning. So, as I often do when I wake up to freshly fallen snow, I performed a quick mental calculation: how long until I need to back my car down the driveway… and thus how long can I delay shoveling?
I shoveled. It was 6 am and I bundled up in my warm winter gear and started moving snow.
Part of me contemplated how all this would be a moot consideration were I to bite the bullet and just buy a blower. But another part of me knows that there is something more honest and hearty about pulling out the shovel, using your strength and stamina, and moving that snow by hand. It’s a kind of rite of passage for owning a stretch of concrete… but that doesn’t also mean I’d like to get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
How many ways are there to move snow? What’s the best way to shovel your walk? This is what I’ve learned after owning a house for ten years in a northern, often-snow-bound city.
There are Factors to Consider
What is the depth and weight of the snow?
As one might expect, the heavier snow becomes (due to density resulting from temperature variability) the greater this results in changes to the effectiveness and efficiency of different scooping patterns. Light, fluffy snow is often deeper, but less cohesive and doesn’t have as much heft when throwing it far distances. Heavy, wet snow may often be denser and less deep, but results in loads that can greatly impact the pushing distance.
How many people are shoveling?
Are you solo, or do you have a team of shovellers? More hands make for lighter work… and can have impacts on coordination of moving the white stuff without tripping over each other or bungling up your team’s efforts.
How big is your shovel?
Bigger shovels have broader scoop area, but (see “depth and weight”) can be more difficult to push greater distances as they accumulate a load.
Is there ice under the snow?
Early in the snow season, or after a temporary warm spell, fresh snowfall occasionally forms a thin ice layer between snow and concrete. This can have a number of unanticipated consequences, including less push resistance, but reduced traction for your feet and to possibility for
Is it still snowing?
Mid-snowfall shoveling may seem like they reduce the efficiency of shoveling, but often, shoveling multiple times over the course of a long duration snowstorm can help with the long term efficiency. It’s usually easier to remove multiple thin layers of accumulated snow than to wait and try and move one massive layer.
Where are you storing your snow?
Yes, you are moving it from your sidewalk or driveway. But where are you putting it? How far are you moving it? How high do you need to lift it? I store most of my snow on my lawn (as I’m sure many people do), but by the time late-winter rolls around, the pile of snow has been in some years as tall as me: this obviously impacts how I move it and add it to the heap.
Have you already driven on or walked across the snow?
It’s not always possible to shovel first, but if the snow has already been compressed by tires or feet, then this creates potential obstacles to efficient shoveling. Moving snow across the compacted bumps created by traffic over fresh snow often impedes the
There are Shoveling Patterns to Try
One of my long-preferred methods for clearing areas quickly, this method is not as efficient as the snow gets deeper or heavier. But the regular and rhythmic motion that can be achieved through this method is great for light accumulation. This relies on ploughing a centre path through the middle of the area to be cleared. From there, in a regular and repeating pattern, sweeping toward the storage then taking a step, sweeping & stepping, and then repeating until the end of the row is reached… then repeat the whole effort again in the other direction until all the snow is progressively into the storage area.
Some folks follow a general rule of snow shoveling to “never move snow twice.” The efficiency of this method is rooted in that rule. Snow accumulation is chipped away, scooped out from where it’s landed progressively in (a) a center-to-edge pattern (after clearing a path to the middle of the snowy area) or in (b) a radiating blossom pattern, perhaps from a doorway in a regular arc towards snow storage areas.
The classic push and plough has a couple of minor advantages over the other methods. This pattern of picking a starting point and pushing a quantity of snow in a direct and linear path directly to a storage area and then repeating until all the snow is moved is similar to the Scoop and Toss, but (a) uses less of the leverage provided by the shovel, (b) is easier to perform while maintaining a good, fixed, mostly-upright posture, and (c) is highly amenable to varying the load (while still making good progress) by reducing the chunk of the unshoveled area covered by subsequent pushes.
Ok, everyone… get shoveling. I have a half marathon group to lead and I need your sidewalks. #deepdeepsnow