Absolute best snow shovel money can buy?
September 25, 2017 7:18 AM   Subscribe

This is my first winter owning a house in a snowy climate. I will have to shovel the walk in front of my house every time it snows, per the city. I hate the cold and I'm a small weakling of a woman. What should I buy to make this job as easy as possible?
posted by ohsnapdragon to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd get a plastic shovel with a D handle. If the walk is concrete your shovel should have a metal wear strip.

But actually you probably want a few shovels. I large ~30" unit for when you get only an inch or two of snow and then a smaller shovel for when you get a dump of several inches. Also a steel square mouth shovel for scrapping off compacted snow and ice that is created when people walk on damp snow before you get a chance to clear it.

Finally I also have a push broom for final clean up and to remove light traces of snow.
posted by Mitheral at 7:30 AM on September 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

The first thing to get is a decent set of cold weather clothing - mittens, hat, coat, etc. That'll help you in a lot of cold situations.

The Sweethome has a couple of top picks, mostly from True Temper. I preferred a metal shovel, which is better for ice and packed down snow, although I only had to shovel asphalt and concrete - wood might suggest a softer touch.

Speaking of the difficulties of ice and packed snow, it's a lot harder to clear those than fluffy new fallen stuff, so try and get out there as soon as possible. I've even shovelled while it was snowing when it was forecast to be a big dump; cuts down on the weight of what you need to do later.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 7:30 AM on September 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

The best snow-clearing money can buy is paying the teenager next door 20$ to clear it.

I have a push shovel that is great for keeping up with flurries, and a smaller shovel with a bent pole for deeper stuff. For a busy city sidewalk you might also want an ice chopper to deal with compacted snow.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:32 AM on September 25, 2017 [16 favorites]

it's probably more technique than tools. more frequent shoveling during the snow event = waaaaay less effort. if that sounds crappy, you may want an "electric snow shovel" there are dozens of types and they go for around $99 max. huge lifesaver of a tool.
posted by chasles at 7:36 AM on September 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

And don't forget that a broom is easier than a shovel in many cases, especially with dry snow.
posted by Bee'sWing at 7:37 AM on September 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

Rediculous looking and expensive. But for a small weakling, this is the one (although hiring that teenager next door is still the best option)

posted by luvmywife at 7:40 AM on September 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Agreeing with chasles that technique helps out more; you want to get a shovel that you can manuver to remove small strips of snow one at a time. Snow is heavy and you don't want to get a big shovel that makes it easier to get too much snow in one pass.

(My personal favorite type is a broad plastic shovel with steel on the blade.)
posted by lineofsight at 7:46 AM on September 25, 2017

Adding this Back Saver helper handle makes almost any snow shovel better. We prefer these combined with "regular" shovels over the bent ergonomic ones.
posted by advicepig at 7:48 AM on September 25, 2017

After a lifetime of Midwest winters, I can't over emphasize the advice to shovel early and shovel often. Shovel when it's still snowing and you feel like an idiot for doing so.

This method is orders of magnitude easier than waiting until the snow stops falling and you need the best-snow-shovel-ever just to clear the sidewalks.
posted by she's not there at 7:48 AM on September 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

I have two shovels: one that has a bent handle so it acts like a plow and pushes the snow, and one that scoops and lifts snow. Both are important. Both have the metal edge strip, btw. I also have an old straw broom that I use to sweep light dustings off the steps and sidewalk.

You want to push as much snow as possible; it's easier. Also I would like to repeat in bold and all caps: SHOVELING 3" OF SNOW TWICE IS 10X EASIER THAN SHOVELING 6" OF SNOW ONCE. Also if you get it before anyone steps on it it's way easier.

So, you push-shovel your walk, and you use the scoop shovel for steps or anywhere you need to actually move a pile of snow from one place to the other. If the snow is wet, do little scoops at a time - that shit is heavy. You won't use the scoop shovel all that much (probably) but scooping with a push shovel will make you want to die, so it's worth having both.

I am neither big nor particularly strong, but I don't mind shoveling. I got a pair of LL Bean Snow Sneakers that I like for anytime the snow isn't excruciatingly deep.
posted by telepanda at 7:49 AM on September 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

I also really like having a plastic snow scoop for moving snow. I'll push it around with the standard snow shovel, but when I need to dig something out, it's super nice to have a scoop. Just take it small scoops at a time.
posted by advicepig at 7:55 AM on September 25, 2017

What should I buy to make this job as easy as possible?

Honestly? A snowblower. For reals.

They make very tiny ones now. Or these "electric shovel" things. Here's a bunch more.

They're electric, so you'll need a heavy duty outdoor cord, but trust me that these things are so so so much easier than using a manual shovel. My mom, who just turned 83, swears by the electric shovel that I linked above for clearing off her front walk and the sidewalk in front of her house.

Seriously. Get a snowblower.
posted by anastasiav at 8:01 AM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Don't forget sidewalk salt! The moment you realize you need to salt your sidewalk, it is already too late and all the stores will be sold out.
posted by castlebravo at 8:01 AM on September 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hi! I live in greater Buffalo and shovel our (small) driveway and walk by hand. If we had a two-car wide driveway or a longer walk I would get a snowblower. Since you live in Chicago, I do hereby certify as a denizen of a wintry city that you will NOT be a wimp if you get a snowblower, and you will NOT be a wimp if your strategy is simply to hire someone to do this for you. Both those alternatives are pricier than a shovel, but you will still be a good person if you avail yourself of them.

The specific shovel seems less important to me, though if you don't have one yet you might as well get the Sweethome's recommendation because they're often right about things. But, if you're getting a shovel,


Seriously, shoveling snow is not the same experience with them. To get scientific, it is 1.3 gazillion times easier and less backsoreifying.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:28 AM on September 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

This isn't my recommendation, because I live in an apartment and don't shovel snow. But friends who do swear by the Wovel: https://wovel.com/ which is sort of a cross between a snowshovel and a wheelbarrow? I remember it because the name is funny, but people I know are super enthusiastic about it.
posted by LizardBreath at 8:42 AM on September 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Different handle/shovel lengths etc will be good for different bodies, maybe try them out in a store NOW. Also buy yourself a snow sweeper/scraper for your car while you are at it. Next, buy salt or one of those environmentally friendly alternatives (they work well enough). Do all this purchasing as soon as the stores stock them.

Be sure to have excellent GLOVES when you are shovelling. I often shoveled in a tank top because the exercise got me warmed up, but my hands were always cold.

And finally: shoveling while the snow is still falling is absolutely the right thing to do. It is much less effort and doesn't end up taking any longer overall.
posted by jeather at 9:19 AM on September 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Where I live we get ice with snow, and ice is really hard to scrape up with a shovel. I own the shovel the Sweethome recommends, with the back saver handle -- it's great. I also own one of these ice breaker gizmos. I feel silly about it, because it feels like too much gear, but all my neighbors always ask to borrow it. So if you get ice, get one of those too. (edited to fix link)
posted by OrangeDisk at 9:34 AM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

We live in Minnesota, and we mostly just shovel ourselves, but we also have this electric snowblower and it's really awesome.
posted by odinsdream at 9:49 AM on September 25, 2017

Snowblowers are great but dangerous. If you have, say, a newspaper caught in the blades, the mechanism can be like a coiled spring, ready to do much damage to hand and arm as you try to get it free. I've heard of professionals getting gory injuries this way. It can happen even if you shut off the engine or unplug an electric unit. Try a winter or two with lesser tools.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:13 PM on September 25, 2017

As stated above, one shovel is not enough! I shovel a long walkway and two flights of stairs and I have a mid sized metal shovel, suitable for slushy snow and breaking up light ice, a deeper, lighter shovel, for scooping up the fluffy stuff, and a smaller travel/child's size shovel because my stupid front steps curve and the other shovels don't fit properly. I pay a person to come with a tractor and clear my driveway all winter (worth every penny) but if I didn't I'd add a sled shovel to my arsenal. I should get one of those ice breaker gizmos linked above too...
posted by Cuke at 2:04 PM on September 25, 2017

I recently became aware of these outdoor heating strips. Not cheap, but plug and play. They also make step sized ones.
posted by at at 2:48 PM on September 25, 2017

Be sparing in your use of salt, especially near valued plants. Sand will also keep things less slippery and it is non-toxic.
posted by Bee'sWing at 2:51 PM on September 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm a small weakling of a woman

If you hate the cold and it's a drag for you, getting the awesomest shovel isn't going to make much of a difference. If you can afford it pay someone to do it. Any kids in your neighbourhood? Any guys with snow blowers? Make nice with the neighbours and it might not cost too much. Check online classified ads or boards at the local grocery store as well.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:06 PM on September 25, 2017

Wow, I didn't know about the heated strips.

I semi-regularly visit a person with a heated driveway and it is glorious. If your power costs are remotely reasonable I would be all over the heated mat. Next choice, the local Charlie Brown kid going around with a shovel. (I once got an estimate from a local company and tested back "Seriously? LOLZ. Okay, thanks for your time," because it was five times the price of what any teenager would ask.)

Do you have a neighbour with a snowblower? If you have one and they seem to not hate winter, you could offer money, or barter, for them to do yours whenever they're doing theirs.
posted by kmennie at 6:20 PM on September 25, 2017

Nthing the Sno Wovel! Your neighbors will look at you like you are an alien, but it actually makes shoveling kind of fun (at least early in the season).
posted by Preserver at 7:53 PM on September 26, 2017

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