I think my most exasperating memory of the past holidays was standing on my driveway holding a shovel about to clear the one or two centimeters of snow that had accumulated the night before – again! To boot, it started to get really cold on or about December 14 and, except for a couple a relatively mild days on the 21 and 22, it’s just been brutal through the first week of January. In fact, it got so cold that I started wearing the neon-yellow insulated balaclava I bought as a joke last summer at Princess Auto for a loonie. Even the insulated winter gloves I bought on Amazon last year—rated to -32°C—couldn’t tough it out there for more than 15 minutes before I lost all feeling in my fingers. I had to rotate with my other pair of Costco leather gloves just to hold the shovel’s handle and finish the job.
And the constant snow! I mean, it snowed almost every other day – not a lot mind you, like a centimeter or two, but it still needed to be cleared in the midst of one of the worst cold snaps in years. It was especially painful for me because there wasn’t enough accumulation in those weeks to fire-up my snow thrower and make quick work of this agonizingly manual and mundane chore. We own a gorgeous Troy-Bilt 24” dual stage snow model—a real looker— which mostly sat in my garage over this period. She’s painted up in bright Christmas red with white accents and big black meaty tires. This workhorse offers up six forward gears, power steering, and heated handles! But it was no good to me because we needed to get dumps of a couple of inches or more.
And frankly, that’s the way it should be. When it must snow, bring it. I should be able to get that machine out, revel in its smooth power and capabilities, and then head back inside for a lie down. I’ve used it so sparingly this season that it’s still running on the same tank of gas I filled it with in November.
But there’s more to this rant. Aside from the constant flurries and extreme cold this holiday season, there’s was the issue of people driving in before I had a chance to clear the fresh snow. I could scream! Now, not only do we have snow on our driveway, but the vehicle parked there has compacted two rows of snow under its tires making it virtually impossible to remove. You have to wait until it warms up so the salt can melt it. Trying to clear it with a plastic snow shovel is useless. Maybe a steel pusher would work but they weigh a ton. So, why isn’t this a bylaw yet? You approach someone’s house, you see fresh snow on the driveway, you park on the street. Simple. If you park on the driveway causing unnecessary snow compaction stripes, Calgary Bylaw tickets the vehicle an amount equal to the incremental labour required to scrape it clean, salt costs, overhead, and a cold weather surcharge.
That got me to thinking that what I really wanted for Christmas was one of those big backpack gas leaf blowers that the contractors use. Those folks just walk around and blow the snow to the side in minutes. I’m sure those engines strapped to their backs keep them warm as well, so there’s that. I saw my neighbour trying to clear his driveway with one of those electric jobs, but they’re just too small to move the snow effectively. Sure, the gas units are noisy and wake up the dog if it’s too early, but they move the light snow like butter.
I mentioned the leaf blower idea to my wife who, by this time, was sick of hearing me complain that I was living my life with a shovel in my hand. I wanted a big one, something with decent horsepower, which I could also use in the summer to blow the dirt out of my garage and retire the broom.
The bad news was that no one in Calgary had any in stock over Christmas. And I was prepared to pay full retail for the thing – something I never do. I looked on Facebook Marketplace and there were a few available that were in good shape and reasonably priced. I wondered why these people were selling these wonderful machines. Surely, they had gone through the same pain I was going through when they bought them? Why then sell them at precisely the time you needed them? I got suspicious. Were they really worth it? Maybe those contractors were switching to those big gas-powered rotary sweepers. I ended up at Canadian Tire buying one of those double-wide plastic snow pushers instead. Now, I push the snow to either side of the driveway where it accumulates enough for me to head into the garage and fire up my 24” Troy-Bilt.