If you live in certain parts of the country, it’s an all-too-familiar sight: Winter’s first snow leaves your car stuck in the driveway, and you need a way to dig yourself out. Business owners with snow-covered parking lots, meanwhile, need a way to get customers in.
That’s where snow-removal equipment comes in. You don’t need one of those giant snowplows that clear city streets to do the trick. There are other, more manageable ways to do the job. From snowblowers and snow throwers to loaders with various attachments, you’ve got plenty of options available to you.
Some equipment will work better in heavy snow, and others will be better suited to icy conditions. Here’s a rundown of different products so you can decide what’s right for you.
1. Snow Thrower
It’s easy to confuse snow throwers with snowblowers, but they’re two different things. The key differences between them are their models, clearing width, horsepower, and cost. Most snow throwers work as a single-staged model while snow blowers are typically in two-stage or three-stage models.
Snow throwers are better than snowblowers for light and fluffy snow. They’re less powerful and work in a single stage: They gather snow up and expel it from a chute in one motion using a horizontal spinner; they can throw snow 15 to 25 feet away.
Snow throwers have a clearing width of up to 26 inches of snow and are most often used for walkways, sidewalks, or small areas. They’re available in corded electric models and cordless, battery-operated throwers.
2. Snow blower
Snow blowers are more powerful than snow throwers and can remove large amounts of snow in a single pass. Because of this, they’re suitable for clearing large areas like parking lots.
Snowblowers have a clearing width of up to 36 inches of snow and are available in two or three-stage models. Unlike single-stage snow throwers, they use a rotating auger for the first stage, scooping up the snow, which is then transferred to a powerful fan-driven impeller that expels it up to 50 feet away. This process makes them a good choice for wet, heavy, or icy snow.
Snow blowers are available with features such as multiple speed settings, headlights so they can be operated in low light, and heated handgrips to keep your hands warm.
In addition to machines designed specifically for snow removal, like a blower or thrower, various kinds of heavy equipment are available to do the job — especially for larger areas. They include skid steers, wheel loaders, backhoes, and utility vehicles, all of which can be used for large snow removals on highways, roads, or elsewhere.
Moreover, they can be fitted with specialized attachments designed for snow removal. We’ll touch on these attachments a little later. In the meantime, here are a few loaders and other vehicles you can use for snow removal.
Skid steers are compact, open-cab vehicles that work well for clearing snow in small areas and tight spaces. If you need to clear out a tight space between buildings or fences, this is an option worth considering. They can handle major snowfall with the right type of attachment and are versatile due to multiple attachment options.
When choosing a skid steer for snow removal, one important consideration is how they move: Some move around on wheels, and others on tracks. Wheels offer good traction in snow, especially if they’re equipped with snow tires. Snow tracks are designed specifically for slick, icy surfaces, while tracks designed to drive on dirt may slip and slide in icy conditions.
All-Wheel Steer Loader
All-wheel loaders can work well in tight spaces, like skid steers, but they’re easier to operate and can push more snow. So if you need to clear a path after heavy snow, an all-wheel loader can be a good choice. Another advantage: They don’t do as much damage to the ground. They also have great traction on icy surfaces.
Like skid steers, all-wheel steer loaders often come with open cabs. If your area gets cold in the winter, consider renting models with enclosed cabs.
Backhoe loaders can handle heavy and wet snowfall. Not only can they lift snow to move it, but they can compact it as well, whether you’re dealing with fluffy, new-fallen snow or heavier snow that’s been sitting for a while. Models with quick couplers can allow you to switch attachments easily without leaving your heated cab (some models even have heated seats).
Wheel loaders are powerful machines that can handle a lot of snow: several feet of it. They also have large windows to provide great visibility for snow removal, and may have headlights for use at night or in low visibility. These features can come in handy if you’re working in an area that receives heavy snowfall, or at times when snow is still falling while you work. One drawback: They aren’t as nimble in navigating tight spaces as smaller machines.
Mini Track Loader
Mini track loaders are small and compact, making them well-suited for sidewalks and narrow paths. Like backhoe loaders, they can compact snow in addition to lifting and moving it. The word “mini” is important here: You don’t sit in a cab with these loaders; instead, you walk behind them, guiding them as you work.
What if you need to remove snow from an area that’s off the beaten path? If so, utility vehicles can help. They can handle rugged terrain because they’re equipped with special tires for added traction and run using four-wheel-drive transmissions. They can also be equipped with several attachments to remove snow.
Snow Removal Attachments
Speaking of attachments, here are a few that can be attached to a truck or machine such as a skid steer or loader:
- Snow buckets — These attachments can scoop and transport large volumes of light snow. Unlike some attachments with mechanical parts, they don’t include electric or hydraulic parts, so they require minimal maintenance. They’re also known for their versatility and can be used for moving other things, such as wood or mulch, during warmer weather.
- Snow pushers — As their name suggests, snow pushers are designed to push snow straight ahead. They’re available in different widths to match your space limitations, but the wider the pusher, the harder it will be to maneuver. Heavy snows may be too much for some pushers; there’s only so much they can handle. They can’t load or lift snow, either.
- Snowplow blade — Angled plow blades work on hydraulics and can remove snow quickly, stacking it high and cleanly, even on uneven terrain. V-shaped snow blades look a little like locomotive “cowcatchers.” They also work on hydraulics, work best in open spaces, and are most effective on hard surfaces such as concrete and pavement.
Snow Removal Tools
In addition to machines, homeowners have access to a number of other tools for smaller DIY chores or additional cleanup.
Ergonomic snow shovels are used to clear walkways or long driveways covered in snow. Shovels are available with flat blades for deep snow and round blades for scooping up snow to clear a path and tossing it aside. Blades can be made of plastic (lighter) or metal (stronger for bigger loads). Wheeled snow pushers called snowcasters are also available.
Handheld Ice Scrapers
These are great tools that can be used to remove ice from your car windows. They’re compact so they can be stored in your glove compartment, and some come equipped with features like a brush and telescoping handle to make the job easier.
This salt-based product is designed to prevent snow accumulation and eliminate light snow or ice that covers walkways or driveways. It doesn’t make the snow disappear, but if you apply a thin layer before a storm and another layer while snow is falling, it will make it easier to shovel the snow when the storm passes. It’s an inexpensive option that is less likely to damage driveways and concrete than heavy machinery.
If your roof is flat or has a low slope, a roof rake can help remove snow accumulation and to reduce the impact of ice dams. It’s a good idea to rake off your roof once you get more than 6 inches of snow.
These wheeled containers, which often look a little like a wheelbarrow, are used to dispense salt to break up and clear ice from roads. They can be pushed, towed behind vehicles, or mounted on vehicles. The salt is loaded into a hopper and fed into a chute; from there, a rotating disk dispenses it onto the surface below. Salt spreaders are effective at reducing accidents under icy conditions: One study found they reduced collisions by up to 85%.
How To Get Rid of Different Types of Snow
You may have heard that no two snowflakes are alike, and that’s probably true. Snow crystals form differently as they’re exposed to different temperatures while they fall. So it should come as no surprise that snow doesn’t come in just one form.
Different types of winter weather can mean different types of snow. It can fall in flurries, blizzards, flakes, or pellets. The form it takes can help you determine how to clear it. Some approaches, such as a snow thrower, may work best for fluffy snow, and still others for wet snow. A wheel loader might be needed to clear a large area where a lot of snow has fallen. Icy roads may need ice melt or salt spreaders.
Slushy or Wet Snow
This kind of snow can also leave areas muddy. Slushy snow can become heavy and sticky when on the road and can form into ice once the temperature drops.
Best ways to clear:
- Loaders with snow pushers
- Snow shovel
Ice or Frost
Snow can turn into freezing rain, and ice can form on roads, creating a greater likelihood of accidents. Ice prevention and ice removal can be undertaken with the following:
Best ways to clear:
- Salt spreader
- Ice scraper
- Ice melt
- 3-stage snow blowers
Dry or Heavy Snow
Heavy clumps of snow 2 to 8 feet thick/deep can call for one of the following:
Best ways to clear:
- Snow shovel
- Roof rakes
- Ice melt
Snow Removal Tips
Each winter season may be different, especially in different parts of the country. Be ready to face heavy snowstorms or icy roads with a variety of tools that can prepare you for every possibility.
Be aware of how snow and ice affect different surfaces and plan accordingly with the proper tools and preventive measures.