What’s that list of life’s certainties again? Death, taxes—and snow during an Alberta winter. A thick layer of the white stuff makes for a pretty scene, but also treacherous walking—which is why, in most municipalities, homeowners and occupants must remove snow and ice from sidewalks, paths and driveways on or near their property following a snowfall.* But shovelling gets a little easier and safer if you use the right gear and correct technique.
1 DRESS THE PART
Wear layers to keep you warm and dry (but not so many that you restrict your movement). Plus a good toque, padded gloves to prevent blisters, and sturdy boots with good tread.
2 STRETCH IT OUT
Shovelling is exercise, so warm up to the task. Take a walk around the block and do some light stretches, focusing on your arms, legs and back.
3 SELECT AND PREP YOUR SHOVEL
The handle should be ergonomically curved and long enough that you don’t have to bend much while using it. And favour a smaller blade size: pushing and lifting lighter loads reduces your chance of injury. Spray blade with silicon lubricant to prevent snow from sticking.
4 GET A GRIP
Protect against a nasty fall by spreading sand on any particularly slippery spots that you may have to traverse or stand on while shovelling.
5 FOCUS ON POSTURE
Push snow as far to the edge of driveway as possible before you have to lift it into a pile. Keep your back straight as you push. Periodically switch between shoveling right- and left-handed.
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6 LIFT STRAIGHT
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, bend at knees and scoop up small to medium amounts of snow. Keep shovel blade close to you to minimize back strain. Try not to twist your body when lifting and heaving snow.
7 TAKE BREAKS AND REHYDRATE
In frigid temperatures, moisture is being rapidly pulled from your body, but you may not notice the signs of dehydration. Allow yourself occasional water or hot cocoa breaks.
8 SHOVEL IN STAGES
Deeper—and especially wetter—snow means heavier loads. Instead of shovelling it all at once, skim half off the top and do a second pass for the rest.
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9 PILE IT UP
If space allows, throw snow farther from your driveway at the start of the job, then dump it progressively closer. As you grow more tired from shovelling, you’ll have a shorter distance to heave the snow.
Snow-smart tips to protect your family and property:
• Shovel snow away from your home’s foundation to guard against seepage with the spring thaw.
• Keep furnace and dryer vents clear. Blocked vents can be a fire hazard and can cause carbon monoxide buildup in your home.
• If you can, clear snow a metre from the edge of your roof to reduce the risk of ice damming and leaks. Take care not to damage shingles and flashing, and if you use a ladder, always have a spotter.
• If you don’t clear your snow, you could be held liable if a person slips and is injured on your property. Be a local hero by shovelling for neighbours who aren’t able to do it themselves.
*Check your community’s bylaws to find out about specific snow-clearing requirements.