A thick layer of snow on the ground can be a thing of beauty. It can transform any front yard into a winter wonderland, evoking fond childhood memories of winter fun. But using the wrong tool to shovel snow can quickly turn that scenic beauty into a backbreaking chore.
In a typical year, Americans report over 11,000 injuries per year attributed to shoveling snow. Most of those are back injuries and pulled muscles. This isn’t surprising when you consider that one square foot of snow can weigh between five and twenty pounds, depending on its density and how wet it is. At ten pounds per square foot, clearing a foot-deep front walk that’s three feet wide and twenty feet long can mean moving 600 pounds of snow, all while bending over and standing on a slippery surface! That’s a serious workout.
A well-designed snow shovel can make the job faster and minimize strain on the body. These days, snow shovels are available in a wide range of sizes, shapes, price points, and materials, so there are several factors to consider when choosing one. In this article, Cory Harow breaks down what to look for and which shovel is his favorite.
Traditional shovels have a mostly flat blade, usually about 18 inches in width. Any larger than that and it may become too heavy to lift when loaded with snow. Traditional shovels are sturdy and good for removing snow from walkways, stairs, and other areas where wider shovels won’t fit.
Push shovels have a wide, curved blade that’s shallower than a traditional shovel. Often 24 inches wide or more, they work more like a plow, pushing the snow aside rather than lifting it. Push shovels work best when snow is three inches deep or less.
Combination shovels merge the curved shape of a push shovel with the larger-sized blade of a traditional shovel. This style of shovel is designed to push snow away from a sidewalk or driveway, while still allowing a loaded blade to be lifted.
Some shovels feature a gently curved ergonomic handle, designed to minimize bending. Shovels with ergonomic handles reduce strain when lifting a load of snow, and can make the task much easier on the back and arms, reducing the risk of injury. Some ergonomic handles also include a small second handle partway down the shaft, for better leverage when lifting.
Traditional snow shovels often have a blade made of steel or aluminum, which can be very sturdy and useful for breaking up ice or compacted snow. However, they can also damage wooden decking or other sensitive materials. They can also be heavier and vulnerable to rusting.
Many shovels on the market feature blades made from a heavy-duty polypropylene. This makes them lighter-weight, but not necessarily as reliable for scraping away ice or hard-packed snow.
Cory Harow‘s favorite shovel is the True Temper 18-Inch Ergonomic Mountain Mover. It’s an ideal combination shovel that features a scooped polypropylene blade with a nylon wear strip along the end for better scraping and durability. The Mountain Mover has a gently curved ergonomic handle and is fairly lightweight, at less than four pounds. It’s available at most major retailers (Home Depot, Amazon, Walmart) for between $25 and $30, making it an affordably-priced, well-designed shovel that will get the job done.
Among push shovel options, Harow recommends the Garant Yukon 24-Inch Ergonomic Snow Pusher. It’s lightweight and easy to use, with a curved shaft and a polypropylene blade. It’s a bit pricier, at about $80 (available at Amazon.com), but it’s a sturdy choice for clearing away snow without lifting.
Finally, it can be a good idea to keep a small shovel in the trunk of the car during the winter months. A great option is the Hopkins Subzero Auto Emergency Shovel. With a 9.5-inch polypropylene blade and a telescoping handle, it’s compact yet tough. At a cost of only about $20, it’s a worthwhile investment that could come in handy in a storm.