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Why You Should Push, Not Shovel, Snow And Other Tips


The latest snowstorm has hit a good chunk of the mid-Atlantic and South. As many of you know, New England has been seeing record snowfall. It's the time of year when snow shovels are hard to find at the hardware store. But our next guest says, so what, you shouldn't use one anyway. To talk snow, we're joined by John Allin, a snow removal consultant. He's a columnist for Snow Magazine - that's right, Snow Magazine, He's with us from Alaska Public Radio in Anchorage.


JOHN ALLIN: Nice to be here. Thank you.

MCEVERS: Let's start with the shovel thing. I know for a long time the sort of snow removal professionals have used these things called snow pushers, right?


MCEVERS: But it seems like they're becoming more popular with regular people now. Can you explain why a snow pusher is better than a snow shovel?

ALLIN: Well, for the people that remove snow on a professional basis, you do it for such long periods of time that if you actually use a shovel like you would see in a hardware store, it becomes a workman's comp claim looking for some place to happen because it's so hard on the back and the cardiovascular system. The snow pusher - if you envision what a moldboard looks like on a plow - this is a much smaller version of that. It's made out of plastic and it's got a handle that is attached to this plastic in the back. It's designed so that you don't have a bottom plate to it. So you can't actually pick up snow. What it forces you to do is to push the snow off to the side. Much, much easier on your back and certainly much easier on your heart.

MCEVERS: So you recommend that people use snow pushers and not snow shovels?

ALLIN: Oh yeah, most definitely. And if you go into your local big-box store, they've got 20 different types of shovels. Pick up a steel shovel, people think wow, it's steel - it'll last forever. But it's awfully heavy.

MCEVERS: The Boston Globe today had a story about snow blower envy. You're out there with a shovel, or a snow pusher I should say, and you know, there goes your neighbor guiding the machine that just spits snow to the side. Have snow blowers changed too? I mean, is there a new type of snow blower that we should be thinking about?

ALLIN: There are many different types of snow blowers. You've got the ones that are three feet wide and they're bulky and they're self-propelling, and they're very expensive. But for the average homeowner, they've got now much smaller snow blowers. They use paddles and not steel blades to cut up the snow.

MCEVERS: And you feel like that's still a good idea, the second option?

ALLIN: Well, I'll tell you, if I was in Boston right now and I had to hand-shovel my driveway and I saw somebody with a snow blower, I might be inclined to go over there and beat them on the head until I could get them to give it up.

MCEVERS: (Laughter). Well, that's one tactic. You are there in Alaska helping organize an upcoming trade show for snow and ice managers. Is there anything new out there that we should know about as we kind of look to the future? I read something about unmanned snow plows. Is that the future, are the snow-removal robots coming?

ALLIN: Well, you know, I think that the industry itself is only limited by the extent of the imagination of people who dream stuff up. And there is a product on the market that you can use in a driveway - it's how they show the video - where it is unmanned, operates almost like a drone. And you can plow snow without ever having to get out in it. Now, it's in the early stages so you're not going to find a contractor utilizing something like this, but, you know, there was a point in time when nobody thought that you'd be able to take pictures of your house with a drone from 500 feet, and now it's commonplace.

MCEVERS: John Allin is the author of "Managing Snow And Ice" and he's a columnist for Snow Magazine.

Thank you so much.

ALLIN: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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