Picking a Snow Shovel

Everyone’s favorite groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil popped out of his stump on February 2nd 2012 and saw his shadow. Which makes it official, winter is not going anywhere. Keep your shovels ready and you snow blowers handy, Jack Frost is here to stay. Sure a soft blanket of fresh snow is a delight to behold, but not when it’s 2 feet deep and on top of your car. So what has modern technology created for us to take on the herculean task of clearing our driveway and digging out our car? That’s right, the snow shovel!

The right tool makes all the difference.

Picking the right snow shovel

It was our use of tools that separated humans from the rest of the animals, and one of the oldest is the spade. While the under-appreciated shovel comes in many forms, few inspire more groans than the winter classic known as the snow shovel. Or as I like to call them, back breaking, arm numbing instruments of torture. They are great for lifting large amounts of anything and placing it a slightly different area. And certain types are very effective at breaking up ice and snow clumps. Of course breaking up, lifting and flinging snow and ice can be exhausting. Any good powder hound worth their salt knows how much even a few inches of snow can weigh.

Technology and technique are the keys to surviving the winter. Since I am not an occupational therapist I am going to leave it up to you to perfect your own lifting techniques; I will be focusing on the tools themselves. In recent years there have been some vast improvements in snow shovel design. There are almost as many designs as there are flakes in the sky. Here is a little guide on what type of shovel (or broom) suits your particular snow removal needs.

Metal shovels with clean/sharp edges are the best choice when you are tackling hard-packed ice and snow. While it might not be the quietest option, the metal scoop tends to be more durable and will bend instead of breaking. If there is excessive ice, you might want to go with a shovel that is flat and has a blade. The straight handled 8 inch flat spade is a classic design that has stood the test of time. The straight and sharp edges will help break the ice apart while the straight design allows maximum power output directly into the ice. Modern alloys have made these shovels lighter than years past and new carbon coatings can help keep the snow from sticking to the scoop. Just watch those toes when you are trying to break up ice chunks and frozen snow walls those blades can be very sharp!

Plastic shovels come in all shapes and sizes and tend to be lighter than metal shovels. Many come with large scoops and make it easier to move a large drift or deeper snow. Other plastic snow movers come in smaller sizes for so everyone can join in on the fun. (Don’t let the kids miss out on the fun of hard labor!) Plastic shovels don’t scrape ice quite as well their counterparts and have a tendency to break if used improperly, but they are usually inexpensive and readily available. There are many shapes and sizes of plastic shovels, but most are designed to be used more as scoopers rather than scrapers. If you have snow drifts and “lake effect” style snowstorms this type will be your go to. Do remember that bigger isn’t always better, pick a blade that is the right size for your lifting ability. Sometimes a smaller scoop will keep you from trying to be a “hero” and save you from “blowing out your back” and the embarrassment of crying like a two year old in front of your friends and neighbors.

Shop brooms make a very effective weapon when combating light snow fall. A normal shop broom is perfect when there is less than 2 inches and the snow is dry and fluffy. A quick back and forth usually pushes the snow right out of the way with minimal effort. If you can sweep your kitchen you can clear your driveway. Even a little dust broom can make quick work of steps without the risk of scratching your deck stain or house paint. But if the snow is damp and you might as well grab a shovel. Wet sticky snow will clump up and freeze on the hairs of the broom rendering all of your efforts useless.

Snow shovels come in a variety of designs, but some styles are better than others. If back pain is an issue, consider using a Shovel/Pusher combo shovel that has an ergonomic and curved handle. Some snow pushers even come with 2 hand grips so you can put both arms into it. And some scoop shovels have large double handles that make pushing a lot easier and many times more effective. Their design allows you to push at the waist and really put some man/woman power behind it. Many modern handles are made of steel and fiber so they can lift more ice and snow than their predecessors, while keeping the weight down. Modern ice scrapers are very effective, but you might need to supplement your scraping with snow melt. Even 2 centimeters of ice can cause a tragic slip that could ruin your day and your back.