Dealing With Snow

One of the challenges of living where we do is dealing with snow in the winter. A snowfall of 6″-8″ is relatively common and with about 500′ of driveway on a hill, shoveling is not a viable option. It’s even less an option if the snow is 18″ deep in a single storm. We have a variety of tools to deal with snow, starting with the humble snow shovel, which is used for tight areas close to the house. Because you have to walk outside to get between the house and the bedroom, we keep a snow shovel outside the bedroom door on nights when snow is in the forecast.

For more serious work clearing sidewalks and patios, we have a 26″ walk-behind Craftsman snowblower. For mid-sized areas this is the right tool, though for some reason the wind is always in whatever direction blows the snow back on the operator.

Next up on the hierarchy is the tractor-mounted snow-blower. It clears an 84″ path and can (at least in theory) deal with snow 30″ deep, throwing it 30-50′ to the side. This is the weapon of choice on the driveway as it throws the snow well clear of the driveway, which reduces the length of the mud season in the spring since the snow is not just pushed to the side, just to melt down the driveway for weeks in the spring.

Snowblower in action

The final option is to use the plow on the truck. The plow will get closer to the ground than the snowblower (which will throw dirt from the driveway if set too low) and is easier to operate for long distances, as would be the case if I had to plow all 8 miles back to the paved road, which has happened once, and 4 miles to the junction, which has happened a couple of times. I tend not to use it on the driveway except for the last inch or two left by the snow-blower so as not to build up a wall of snow on the side of the driveway.

The plow is made by SnowDogg and has a 96″ wide stainless steel blade, which means no painting and no rust and the ability to clear a path the full width of the truck even angled all the way to the side. It’s pretty tall, too. Tall enough that with wet snow it can build up more snow than the truck can push – another reason to clear the path first with the snow-blower.

Clearing the road or driveway eventually runs out of steam – you’re trying to get someplace and you can’t plow the whole way, or at least you don’t want to. For that, there’s THE BEAST – a 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser with 3″ of lift and 35″ tires. There’s also a locking rear differential and A-TRAC traction control. The 35″ tires give about 15″ clearance at the lowest point, quite a bit more under the rest of the vehicle, meaning it takes quite a bit of snow to pack under the car and stop it. (Unlike the RAV4 which can hang up in 9-12″ of snow).