A snowblower in the country: essential, useful, or just fun?

Raymond shovelling the Manse driveway this past weekend. Somehow I think he would find it more entertaining to clear snow if a snowblower were in the mix.

Raymond shovelling the Manse driveway this past weekend. Somehow I think he would find it more entertaining to clear snow if a snowblower were in the mix.

A snowblower in every garage is a fairly recent concept, in my worldview. I wrote here about the long-ago days (the 1960s) when I was a kid at the Manse, and how exciting it was when our friend and neighbour Bill Holgate would come along with his exotic tractor-pulled snowblower and clear the big driveway at the Manse. Now it seems like almost every household in the country, and even in many urban (especially suburban) areas has a snowblower, and unless I am misinformed, retired chaps have more fun than anything hauling them out and clearing the snow, even when the snowfall is, shall we say, light.

I have to admit that I mocked the whole idea for a long time. But now that we are the happy owners of the Manse, I kind of see the point of snowblowers. We are very fortunate in that our friend and neighbour Ed Couperus has been shovelling the driveway for us, and it’s fantastic when we arrive there late at night after a long drive from Montreal to have the driveway cleared and be able to pull in easily. Ed is the best. But when we’re actually around we can’t expect Ed to do the work; it’s our job!

And while we all know that shovelling snow is good exercise… well, life is short. Snowfalls (especially recently, here in Montreal at least) can be huge. And snowblowing is – kind of fun.

What do you think, readers? Especially rural residents. How important is a snowblower to quality of life? Better to burn the calories shovelling the snow, or do it quickly with a snowblower and have more time for other pursuits?

Your input is very much appreciated. Because, you know, there is snow in our future.

10 thoughts on “A snowblower in the country: essential, useful, or just fun?

  1. Katherine, A snowblower at Riverbend would be ideal. We are thankful for the kind person who plows a spot at the end of the driveway for our car. Arriving late at night and having to break through an ice mountain is not fun. We then make the long walk in with our goods. The walk at night reminds me of Little House on the Prairie as we step through the snow to a dimly lit home that is just waiting for new memories to be created.

    I know Steve would like a snowblower but the driveway it still a bit too long for a snowblower. I think a truck with a front shovel is a better route but neither are in our budget.

    I vote for you to get a snowblower.

    And thank you to who ever it is that leaves a parking space for Steve and me. We really appreciate it!!!

    • That’s so nice about the person who plows a parking spot for your car, Jo-Ann. People in the country are so thoughtful. You and Steve and Raymond and I have excellent Queensborough neighbours!

  2. My suggestion is one I took. A small electric (go green) snowblower. The harder (faster) you push, the further the snow flies. Still good exercise AND you aren’t bending the back.

    • Interesting, Gordon – I’ve never heard of an electric snowblower. In our situation it would have to be a pretty long cord, but I imagine that that’s how they come. I will definitely look into this. Thank you!

  3. ABSOLUTELY essential! If you want exercise, shovel the snow across the driveway to make it easy for the snowblower to clear it all in one or two passes. Last year, just after my husband had had a little surgery and couldn’t do anything strenuous for a few days, we had an enormous snowfall. Hmmm…what to do, what to do? Snow removal is not my job. I saw my neighbour struggling with the heavy mound at the end of his driveway and offered him the use of our snowblower if he would also do our driveway. He accepted with (what seemed to me to be) glee, did the two driveways, and then proceeded to do two more on our block and then the sidewalks between them. I thought he’d NEVER quit!

    • The classic man-with-snowblower picture, Brenda! My mum in Port Hope has a neighbour who I think just itches for there to be snow so he can get out his snowblower, and he is always kind enough to do her driveway and walkway too. Though I’m sure it’s a treat for him!

  4. For ten years I’ve shovelled my rural driveway. It’s 120 feet long, on a hill, with a curve part way up. But I enjoyed the shovelling. It’s good exercise, a reason to get outside in winter, and I liked the sense of responsibility for taking care of basic needs that it gave me. Now a new neighbour does it with his toy — an ATV with plow attached. He clears the drive for me, at least until he and his wife go away for February and March.

    Think about size and flexibility if you get a snowblower. My brother-in-law brought me one he had fixed up, and it pulled me off the ground..

    Think about shovelling when there’s more than 10 cm. Think about heart attack snow. Without having used one, I’d steer you to the electric blower, Anything it can’t blow, you shouldn’t bother to blow.

    • Good advice, I think, Hilary. I actually don’t mind shovelling snow myself (except in bitter weather like we’re having right now), but getting the Manse driveway cleared for several vehicles (i.e. the car, the red truck, and whatever visitors’ cars there might be) is a dauntong prospect after a heavy snowfall. Not as daunting as a 120-foot driveway on a hill, mind you, but … Not a single one of us is getting any younger, more’s the pity.

  5. With global warming, who knows how much snow we’ll get in the future…last year we received something like 2 nanometres [ok, I’m exaggerating].

    The optimal type of snowblower is usually dependent upon the underlying surface. Single stage snowblowers, including those “electric shovels”, require a smooth surface [ie, sidewalks, asphalt] for best performance and are strictly for very light duty applications.

    Dual stage snowblowers work well on rougher surfaces such as grass, gravel, etc, are typically larger, and almost invariably gas-powered.

    Next, one is faced with a choice between wheeled drive [which may require chains] or track drive. I have two of the latter: a pair of old 5 hp 24″ Sears Craftman Trac-Drives. Current track drives, such as those from Yamaha, Honda, Ariens, etc, run into the $2 grand price range.

    Engine size is also a consideration and usually goes hand-in-hand with the scoop width. A 5 hp unit would be 20-24″ [50-60 cm] wide and would be suitable for the Manse. 8-10 hp units are around 30-36″ [75-90 cm] wide and are more suitable for driveways up to 100 metre in length. Larger units can be as wide as 48″ [120 cm], may have dual wheels on each side [and accompanying chains], and can handle just about any typical long driveway.

    Like portable generators, one is also faced with maintenance issues such as oil changes, fuel, summer storage [ie, fuel stabilizer], belt adjustment/replacement, greasing the augur [there are usually grease nipples present], tire/track maintenance/replacement, etc.

    Finally, snowblowers are useless with heavy, wet snow like the first snowfall we received this season: the augur will clog every few seconds or minutes.

    • Graham, you are a veritable fount of information about snowblowers! Good food for thought and further research here. I appreciate your recommendation on the kind that would be suitable for the Manse!

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