February 4, 2011

Blog, Just For Fun, Manly Skills

How to Shovel Snow Like a Man

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Simon Grey. Those of you in the perennially freezing parts of the US will know this information as well as the back of your hand, but I thought this would be a fun primer for those who got surprisingly dumped upon by this week’s big storm. Tulsa got something like 15 inches…a new record!

There are certain duties that almost invariably fall to men. Killing spiders. Opening stuck jar lids. Unclogging toilets. And especially this time of year, shoveling snow.

Snow shoveling is often a back-breaking, tiresome process. If you have a driveway that is sixty feet long by twenty feet wide, and you get six inches of snow, clearing off the driveway means moving six hundred cubic feet of snow. It is thus a task that calls for some seriously manly brawn.

Shoveling snow is generally not a particularly fun activity, although it is an excellent workout and a fine opportunity to get some crisp, fresh air. And there are a few ways to mitigate the unpleasantness of this chore, which we’ll discuss today.

Dressing for the Occasion

First, you need to dress for the job at hand. If it’s above twenty degrees outside, you will want to dress in light layers. I recommend an outfit that consists of leather boots, wool socks, jeans, an undershirt, a thermal henley, a red plaid flannel shirt, and gloves. Maybe a cap, but only if it’s really windy outside.

This outfit works best when it’s above twenty degrees outside, especially if you have a decent amount of shoveling to do. You don’t want to be dressed too warmly, because once you start getting into the swing of things, you’ll heat up fast. This makes wearing at least a couple of layers essential; you’ll want to strip one off as you get going and warm up.

Dressing in layers is encouraged...although maybe not a sweater vest.

If it’s below ten degrees, dress warmer. Add a second pair of socks and a heavier coat. If the snow is deep enough, wear snow pants. And make sure to wear thermal shirts and leggings.

Methods of Snow Removal

For Short Driveways

If you have a short driveway, a shovel will probably work best. Make sure to pick the right shovel for the job. Do not get a plastic shovel; they are poorly constructed and do not stand up to the rigors of moving any snow heavier than a light dusting. They break easily and cannot handle ice.

Also, do not get an “ergonomically designed” shovel. They do not offer any significant benefits to your lower back, at least compared to normal shovels, and they are slightly harder to scoop snow with.

Instead, opt for a shovel with a straight wooden handle and a reinforced metal blade. You will find that these are the easiest to work with and are generally pretty sturdy as well.

The process for shoveling a driveway is pretty simple: first, shovel a line along the edge of the driveway, on the side that the wind is coming from. Do not try to shovel into the wind. After that, shovel snow from that path to the opposite side of the driveway. If you need to toss snow across the driveway, you will be aided by the wind.

For Mid-Length Driveways

If you have a mid-length driveway, you should probably use a snow blower. There are a variety of different brands and types, and each will likely have its own starting process. Consult the owner’s manual for instructions.

Also, remember that snow blowers can be very dangerous. Never stick your hands in the snow chute or scoop while the snow blower is in operation.

Using a snow blower is fairly simple: plow down one side of the driveway and work your way to the other side of the driveway. Make sure to blow all the snow in the same direction. Also, make sure to blow the snow with the wind, not against it. This is a very cold lesson to learn the hard way.

For Long Driveways

If you have a long driveway, use a truck with a snow blade attached. This process is relatively simple as well: drive the truck onto the driveway, lower the blade, and clear off the snow. Make sure that you warm up the truck first, though; you don’t want to harm your engine or drive in a cold cab. If the street on which you live has already been cleared, try to push the snow either off to the side of the driveway or across the street. No one wants to have to drive through or around a pile of snow, including you.

For All Types of Driveways

This is a job to take pride in, so make sure to do it right. Have salt on hand for melting patches of snow. Make sure to clean off the entire driveway as best you can. Break up compacted snow if necessary. If you’re plowing by truck, carry a shovel to take care of snow that the truck blade can’t get to. You want your driveway to look like the snow fell around it instead of on it.

Also, it is important to remember that your family will be driving and walking on this, so you don’t want to leave ice or snow for them to slip on. Ultimately, a clean driveway isn’t simply a matter of pride; it’s a matter of safety.

Don't forget the roof!

Do Something Special

Since you’re going to be outside in the cold, you might as well make the most of it. If you have the time, you might consider shoveling snow to a particular part of the yard in order to build a snowman or snow fort.

Or you may want to pass the manly skill of snow shoveling on to your sons. Hand them another shovel or two and show them your special technique (and by special technique I mean dad watches the kids shovel snow from inside the warm house). If you have a snow blower, you can show them how to start it and use it properly. If you feel really adventurous, you might teach them how to plow the driveway with the truck and snow blade.

It's time for little Billy to start earning his keep.

And remember, a man is always looking out for others. So if you live next door to a little old lady, go over there and shovel her driveway and walkway, too.

When You’re Finished

When you come back inside, you will need to clean the snow off your boots. Be considerate of others when doing this. Don’t track snow and slush through the house and don’t leave your boots where they will be tripped over. If possible, put your wet boots and clothes in the laundry room, mudroom, or garage.

Now sit down with a good book or a newspaper and a warm cup of coffee or cocoa. Make sure to relax, because you’ve most certainly earned it!

Okay old veterans, what other snow shoveling tips can you offer?


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