Snow and ice season is just around the corner, and if you aren’t prepared you could wind up spinning your wheels or flat on your back. Managing the white stuff is a life-saving necessity for folks who live out where the pavement ends. For others, it is a combination of convenience and cost savings. In either case, with the right tools on your team, winter’s worst doesn’t have to slow you down.
From a novel shovel design, guaranteed to save your back, to machinery that’s guaranteed to effortlessly put snow where you want it, to ice-melting flamethrowers and traction devices that’ll keep your feet beneath you and your tires rolling true, we’ll show you how to plow your way through the season. And with any luck, we’ll all have some fun in the process.
1. Shovels. We have nothing against moving snow with a grain scoop or even a traditional snow shovel, but if you need to move plenty of snow and want to do it by hand, you should consider the award-winning Wovel. This ingenious device consists of a shovel mounted on a single wheel that requires no lifting, relying instead on a lever and fulcrum to throw the snow. Billed as the world’s safest snow shovel, the Wovel is almost as fast as a snow thrower, requires no fossil fuel and is perfect for larger driveways and short lanes. Learn more at www.Wovel.com.
2. Walk-behind snow thrower. If the Wovel doesn’t suit your fancy, or you have a little more snow to move, you might consider a walk-behind snow thrower (sometimes called a single-stage snow blower). These little devices use electricity or engine power to turn an augur or set of paddles that lift the snow up off the ground and throw it out of the way. Most snow throwers aren’t self-propelled, so they are best used where the snow is fluffy and you don’t have too much of it to move. If your driveway is paved with gravel, you will want to think twice about using a thrower. Check with Toro, Cub Cadet or your favorite outdoor power product dealer to sort through the possibilities.
3. Walk-behind snow blower. This big brother to the snow thrower is designed to move more snow faster. These so-called two-stage machines employ an auger or paddle arrangement to feed snow to a fan-like blower that sends the white stuff flying with force. Snow blowers are generally self-propelled, powered with gasoline-burning engines and capable of powering their way through everything from hard-packed drifts to wet, slushy precipitation. These machines are best used on paved surfaces, but will work well on frozen gravel coated with a compacted layer of snow. Check your local Ariens dealer for a complete lineup of blowers with roots that go back more than half a century.
4. Walk-behind blades. It used to be that the garden tractor industry was based on two-wheeled, walk-behind machines. For the most part, they were replaced with riding tractors during the 1960s. However, if you already own a two-wheel machine, such as DR Power’s Field and Brush Mower or a BCS rear-tine tiller, you can just remove the mowing deck or tiller and attach a blade to push all but the deepest snow out of your way. DR also offers a high-capacity snow thrower attachment for its power unit.
5. Vehicle-mounted blades. Whether you own an ATV, UTV, pickup, tractor or Jeep-like vehicle, there is a snowplow attachment built to fit. Why not convert your substantial investment in machinery and/or vehicles into something that will make your life easier and save you money to boot? A snowplow exists for virtually every four-wheel-drive utility vehicle or tractor out there. Choose light-duty models if your snow-moving needs are relatively small. Choose heavy-duty devices if you plan to do a little custom plowing on the side. Check with your local implement dealer, snowplow dealer, or on the Web to see what’s available for your vehicles.
6. Machinery-mounted blowers. If you need to move tons of deep snow in areas where it’s difficult to push piles away from a path with a plow, you might consider one of these more expensive, but very effective snow blowers. The units that mount on the front of an ATV or UTV typically will carry their own engine, although some will tap into the hydraulic system of the UTV. Those that mount on the tractor will generally attach to the 3-point hitch and receive power from the tractor’s PTO. Mounted snow blowers range from about 4 feet to more than 8 feet wide and are available in light-, medium- and heavy-duty models. See your outdoor power equipment dealer or search the Web to learn more.
7. Machinery-mounted rotary brooms. Believe it or not, large, horizontally oriented, rotating brooms can make short work of clearing lanes and sidewalks. These devices come in sizes to fit everything from lawn tractors and zero-turning-radius mowers to full-sized tractors. Some are powered with their own engine, while others rely on the platform’s PTO or hydraulic system to make them spin. Rotary brooms are great for moving light, dry snow and leave the surface practically slip-free. John Deere, New Holland and others offer brooms for their tractors. Models sized to fit smaller machines can be found at your local outdoor power dealer and online.
8. Weed torch turned snow dragon. Flame Engineering (
) offers propane torches suitable for everything from heating cold engines to killing weeds to, you guessed it, mass melting of snow and ice. Available under the Red Dragon and Weed Dragon trademarks, these economical tools can be used for primary snow and ice removal or for finishing up after the shoveling, blowing or plowing is completed. The benefits of a torch include easy removal of hard-packed snow and ice, and you can use it to completely dry your sidewalk or steps (as long as they aren’t flammable).
9. Snow tires and tracks. If you live out in the country in the snow-belt, you might consider keeping a set of tires on hand to help your primary vehicle around safely. In some areas, it’s still legal to mount tires adorned with little metal studs, which can be invaluable on icy and snowy roads. Likewise, if you have turf-tires mounted on your ATV, UTV or tractor, you will get more go out of them in winter if you swap in a set of tires with more aggressive lugs. And if you need to get your ATV, UTV, tractor or pickup out to the back 40 after a blizzard, consider mounting a set of tracks on all four corners. Tracks are expensive, and installing them is a little involved, but they are ideal for extreme winter conditions. Check them out on the Web at
10. Tire chains. Nothing will keep your tractor, truck or utility vehicle moving through deep, icy or sloppy snow like a set of tire chains on the drive wheels. The downside to these simple and relatively inexpensive traction aids is that they limit the vehicle’s top speed substantially. And if one comes loose while heading down to the mailbox, there’s a good chance that it will beat a new contour into the pickup’s fender. Look for chains at your local farm store, tire dealer and online.
11. Ice grippers. Keeping your footing is critical to enjoying winter and getting the chores done safely. With a pair of ice grippers between your boot sole and the ground, there’s no more slipping, sliding or falling flat on your back. YakTrax (
) offers easy-to-use grippers that work like tire chains. DueNorth’s (
) version is every bit as easy to use, but it works more like studded snow tires. Keep several pairs of these bone savers handy, and you will dare to tread outside after even the most treacherous ice storm.
12. Winch. Let’s face it, no matter how well you prepare for winter, there’s always a chance you will slide or sink into trouble or get drifted in. Installing a winch on your ATV, UTV or pickup is one way to prepare for such inevitabilities. The winch is a perfect partner for pulling other vehicles out of a snowy ditch. (You too, can make a good impression; see Editor’s Note.) They also can be used to extract the vehicle they’re mounted on from similar situations.
13. Tow strap. As tempting as it is to use a chain to pull winter-stuck vehicles, should that chain break under tension, there’s a good chance someone or something will get seriously hurt. Elastic woven tow straps, on the other hand, are less expensive and are designed to stretch, rather than break, when subjected to heavy shock loads. A tow strap sized for each of your vehicles should be part of your kit whenever you go exploring during winter.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.