When you live in the Snow Belt, and your driveway is longer than, say, a hundred feet, a snowblower is pretty much a necessity. Being mechanical things with engines, snowblowers do fail to work every once in a while, however. Due to the nature of the thing, you tend to discover that the snowblower won’t do its job right in the middle of a snowfall that necessitates the use of that snowblower.
We have the super-extended warranty on ours, and it has saved us from repair expenses three times already, including a broken auger axle ($300), and a replacement carburetor ($300). Unfortunately, the service appointments are usually booked a week or three in advance, which means that Mr. Snowblower gets to take a long nap under a tarp in the driveway while I have to either shovel my back into disintegration, or pay the plow guy $40 a pop to clear our driveway. After the last episode of that nature, I started looking around for a low-tech backup, for those times when the snowblower is sitting on blocks and waiting for the Sears repair dude, or for scenarios where a 9HP two-stage snowblower is overkill.
What I found was the Mother of All Snow Shovels:
This puppy is called a snow sleigh. It works like a plow, and it can clear ludicrous amounts of snow in one pass. On an even surface, and when you have a spot to dump the snow, this thing is actually faster and more efficient than a snowblower. You push until the trough is full, slide it to the spot where you want to dump the snow, and then give it a little shove to slide the snow off the trough. The sleigh runs on little plastic skids that have very little friction on snow and ice. The design of the thing means you can clear huge amounts of snow without having to strain your back—you never have to lift the sleigh off the ground, and do all your clearing work with your legs. The front of the sleigh trough is reinforced with metal, and the handle bar is one piece of thick steel tubing.
This thing really works best when the snow on the ground is 1-6” of powdery stuff, but it does well with wet snow, too. It’s also better for gravel driveways than the snowblower, since it doesn’t chew up and toss the top layer of gravel. In foot-deep snow, I’d still get out the snowblower first, but the snow sleigh can clear a lot more snow than you’d expect. It’s the perfect complement to the snowblower in my case, and it makes a more than adequate backup. With this, I can actually clear the entire driveway if I have to, something that’s not possible with a plain old snow shovel. For someone who only has a small driveway or stretch of sidewalk to worry about, this would make a great low-cost alternative to a snowblower.
In the future, I’ll give one of these to any friend or family member who decides to move to New England. One of those super-shovels would have saved me a lot of grief and back pain when we moved here right at the start of snow season three years ago.