Brrrrr. Yup, it’s winter again, and for those of us not lucky enough to be living in places where winter temps fall to a brisk 65 degrees, the colder months brings with them the threat of that dreaded four letter word: snow.
I know, I know. For all you skiers out there, snow is a blessing, a sentiment shared by school kids the world over (and their teachers) who get to enjoy a bonus day off. But for the rest of us, snow can be a colossal pain in the neck, because all of that fluffy white stuff is going to have be removed, one way or another.
The best way to deal with snow, especially large quantities of it, is to be prepared. Go out and buy a decent snow shovel that feels comfortable in your hands, isn’t overly heavy and is the right size for you (or your designated shoveler.). As snow tends to stick to metal-bladed shovels, you probably want to avoid those unless you want to keep spraying your shovel with Pam every few minutes to prevent frozen snow build up. Have a few different shovels in your arsenal: conventional models work well for heavier snows while blades that push the snow are great for fluffier snowfalls. Kid-sized shovels are definitely a worthwhile investment: not only can your little ones be unexpectedly helpful when it snows, you want them growing up understanding that snow shoveling is a family affair.
If you keep your car outside, consider covering your windshield with a well-secured tarp to keep the wintry mess from sticking to your windshield. Or try this tip from home improvement guru Bob Vila: fill an old sock with table salt and rub it over your windshield before a snowfall to prevent it from icing up in the first place. Don’t try this one too often, though, since it may damage your windshield.
Keep plenty of rock salt or calcium chloride in an easily-accessible location so it is ready to roll when you are. (I store mine in an old laundry detergent bottle and then just sprinkle it around when I need it.) I also store a pair of gloves and a snow brush in my car during the colder months because I have learned the hard way that brushing snow off your windshield with your bare hands really isn’t all that much fun. Once the snow has begun to fall, you can start debating the age old question: Do you wait until the snow stops to start shoveling or do you go out and shovel a few times during a lengthier snowfall? Personally, I believe in tackling the snow every few hours – while it probably doesn’t save any time, it does make the job much easier since every shovelful is considerably lighter. Once the snow has stopped, be out there with your shovel ASAP because once people start walking or driving on it, it gets packed down and a whole lot harder to clear away.
Dress for success when you go out. Layers are your best bet, as are waterproof gloves and temperature-appropriate footwear with a little bit of traction. In case you have ever wondered, Crocs are not the best choice when shoveling – trust me, I speak from personal experience.
Resist the urge to consider the job done after clearing off just one shovel’s width of snow on your walk, stairs or driveway. Yes, it does take longer to clear off the full area but that snow could be lingering for weeks, leaving you navigating those super narrow pathways for quite some time. More importantly, as that extra snow starts to melt when the sun comes out, it will drip all over your freshly shoveled walk or stairs and then freeze up later in the day when temperatures drop, leaving you with your very own ice skating rink – definitely not such a great idea.
Shoveling your driveway can be a daunting task, but let’s face it, if you want to get your car out, it has to get done. Divide your driveway into quadrants and work one section at a time, corralling family members to join you in the task. When it comes to clearing off your car, take the time to do it right and get rid of all the snow. You know how annoying it is when you are driving on the road and you get snow from the car in front of you blowing all over and obscuring your line of vision? Don’t be that guy! Besides, driving with snow on your car is a ticketable offense in quite a few states.
Should you find that your locks and/or windshield have iced up, there are commercial products available that can solve both of those problems, but there are plenty of items in your house that will work well, including rubbing alcohol, vodka (or most other clear schnapps) and pickle juice. Yup, pickle juice.
A few other thoughts on shoveling: Start early in the day if you can so that you can take advantage of the sun to melt off any bits of snow that you may have missed in your shoveling. And when there is a ton of snow out there, don’t feel pressured to get the job done all at once. Snow shoveling is serious exercise and you don’t want to overdo it.
Once you are all done, take ten seconds to knock the extra snow off your shoes or boots before you come into the house so that you don’t track the mess inside. Hopefully you remembered to leave a chair near the door so that you have a convenient place to sit down while you take off your boots. Finally, after you hang up all your wet stuff to dry, head for the kitchen and enjoy a mug of hot cocoa with plenty of marshmallows – you have definitely earned it.
Are there other ways to get rid of snow that don’t involve shoveling? I confess that I have yet to venture into the world of snow blowers, which do look mighty appealing as long as you don’t run out of gas or accidentally plow through the extension cord that powers your machine. Growing up, we did have one neighbor who took a completely different approach to snow removal. Living on the sunny side of the street, this guy would take out his garden hose and wash away the snow, leaving the sun to dry up his walk. We always waited for his property to freeze into solid ice, but somehow it never did. As for us, we were out there shoveling our frozen fingers off and, while all these years later I find myself living on the sunny sid10e of the street, I have yet to try watering my snow. With my luck, it would probably just grow and give me more snow!