As mother nature continues to vomit snow all over the country, pounding us with polar vortexes and snownadoes, and other hellish storms, one certainty remains: there will be a lot of white stuff to shovel up. Before you set out to clear your drive way or sidewalks, there are a number of snow shoveling hacks to utilize in an effort to save, well, effort, time, and the pain of a sore back.
That’s why we spoke to Susan Pieper. Pieper is a mother of four, a Jackson, Wyoming resident acutely familiar with obscene snowfall, and the founder and CEO of DMOS Collective, which makes collapsible aluminum shovels beloved by professionals. The problem with most shovels, per Pieper, is that they’re meant to be disposable, and therefore cheap. What’s more, she says, “there is a cost inherent in disposing of that shovel that isn’t built into that price.” That cost? The mountains of plastic in landfills that will never decompose. That’s why she recommends hardened metal shovels that will last for years. Even with the best tools come best practices, so here are her best snow shoveling hacks.
Choose the Right Tool
An easy rule of thumb: For snowfalls less than six inches, use a shovel with a wide design meant to push. “That’s the quickest way,” she says. Any deeper and your feeble attempts at hand plowing will only start to compress it with every pass.
When you get deeper than 12 inches, the most efficient means of clearing a drive and sidewalks is with a blower or plow—a worthy purchase if your annual snowfall is over a few feet. However, even with these devices, your shovel shouldn’t be far from hand. “No one ever gets by without having a shovel,” Pieper says, “because you can only get the middle effectively.” Use the shovel for the edges.
Grip It to Rip It
“People think that you should always keep your hands in the same position,” Pieper says, “and that’s not the case.” Rather, pushing comes from the solar plexus with your hands further toward the handle. When lifting, you should choke up, with your hands closer to the blade.
Save Your Back By Putting Your Butt Into It
It is easy to injure your back if you’re lifting wrong. “Think of it like doing a deadlift with kettlebells,” Pieper says. “Posture in your back is critical.” In other words: The back stays straight as the butt goes back, then the hip thrust forward to lift the load. It’s also important to take frequent breaks and pick up smaller amounts to save your back.
Break It Up
Brushing off powder is easy. It’s when it melts and then freezes—common in freeze-thaw cycles—when the real work begins. And tackling it with a snow shovel first is a fool’s errand. “A traditional snow shovel is not an ice tool,” Pieper says. You’ll need something with teeth or a specialty tool, available through your local hardware store, which looks like a steel rod. Once ice is visible, make your first pass with the rod to bust it up and your second pass with a shovel to push it aside. Without this, you’ll just waste time.
Use Cooking Spray
Stuck with some heavy, stubborn snow? A quick spray of nonstick cooking spray or an aerosol-based lubricant like WD-40 will allow sticky, wet snow to slide off your shovel easily. Conversely, more expensive shovels, including those by DMOS Collective, are powder-coated, effectively eliminating the need for any additives.
Don’t Back Over It
One of the most important tips, per Pieper, comes down to common sense: clear the snow before you back the car over it. Rolling over snow packs it down and, well, packed snow comes up harder and less clean. Clear first and you’ll save you both time and energy.