Secrets of snow removal

Maybe a snowblower, but warm up if you’re shoveling

FORT WAYNE NEWSPAPERS Snowblowers, as seen at Mutton Power Equipment, have been big since the 1970s and make it easier on people’s backs when clearing snow needs to be done.
FORT WAYNE NEWSPAPERS Snowblowers can come in all sizes, from large to small. Choosing a riding variety means you’re clearing a lot of snow
COURTESY AARON MAKIN Aaron Makin’s remote controlled snowblower, which got the Fort Wayne resident a bit of internet fame a few years ago, works well and can be in working order this winter if necessary, he says.
FORT WAYNE NEWSPAPERS Snowblowers, as seen at Mutton Power Equipment, have proved themselves to be durable and reliable home equipment, so a homeowner needs to choose carefully when purchasing one. Too small a snowblower will struggle with our heaviest snowfalls and too big a machine will mean you have overspent and are pushing heavier equipment than you need to through more routine snowfalls.

For a fleeting moment, Aaron Makin got a taste of fame.

The Fort Wayne resident’s remote controlled snowblower … well, it blew up on the internet back in 2014. A video of him maneuvering the machine around his driveway while he sipped coffee with his daughters at a window in the warmth of his home went viral, bringing television reporters to his door from all over the country as well as a film crew from The Discovery Channel.

And the thing is, it wasn’t just a little gimmick. The snowblower worked really well.

“It still exists,” Makin said. “It’s in my garage. I didn’t put it together last year because we had only a few snows. But I’m watching the weather, and when we get a big snow coming our way, I’ll get it all tuned up and ready to go.”

“I’m still as lazy as I was back then,” he joked.

So far, we haven’t had quite the heavy taste of winter we’ve had in the past. But the chances snow will be coming our way during the next month or so are always looming. And if you’re one of those poor souls who loathes clearing your driveway or sidewalks, waking up to a white winter wonderland can be an absolute bummer.

You might not be as innovative as Makin — a tinkerer who has made a remote controlled lawnmower and belt sander racers and describes himself as an “engineer during the day and a nerd at night” — but there are some ways to make snow removal a little easier on yourself.

By far the first recommendation, at least by many, is to get a normal snowblower.

It does not have to be remote controlled, but snowblowers can make clearing a driveway or sidewalk easier and, important to many in this fast-paced world, much quicker. Even better, snowblowers seem to last a long time.

“Snowblowers really didn’t become a thing until about the 1970s,” said Joe Mutton of Mutton Power Equipment. “We’ve always run a snowblower trade program, and up until about 2015, most of the ones that came to us were manufactured between 1975 to 1990. It’s been a 20-year rotation on snowblowers.”

According to Mutton, the people who buy snowblowers usually fall into two categories. Some buy one before November, which is usually the start of snow season. And then you have people who come in after a very big snow, and maybe they’ve used the traditional shovel for four or five seasons but now never want to shovel ever again.

“They finally bite the bullet,” Mutton said.

Of course, many different types of snowblowers are available for various types of jobs.

They range from small to massive — choosing the best one depends on your needs and the size of the driveway or sidewalk you are clearing. Rarely will homeowners need the big ones on which you sit, almost like a riding lawnmower.

The other advantage a snowblower provides is physicality.

As in: Using one is easier on your body.

“Bending, lifting and twisting is one of the primary causes of herniated disks — and that’s the primary action in shoveling snow,” said Dr. Richard Busch III, a Fort Wayne chiropractor who heads up Busch Chiropractic.

There is a definite uptick in patients coming in with back pain after snow shoveling lot of snow, according to Busch. Many of them are male and older than 40. “They’re guys who think they are a lot younger than they are,” Busch said.
For many, though, they’re not training for snow shoveling. So shoveling snow means they are using their body in ways it isn’t used most of the time. Under those circumstances, pain, aches and injuries are easy to come by. That is not all, though.

“The bigger thing we see, not only people who hurt themselves shoveling, but then slip and fall on the ice that’s under all that snow,” Busch said.

If you do have to shovel, Busch and others online recommend a few steps to make the process easier:

• Stretch and warm-up. You’re doing a physical exercise. Get prepared.
• Slow down. Don’t be afraid to take breaks.
• Push the snow whenever possible instead of lifting.
• Wear boots or shoes with good traction to avoid slipping and falling.
• Use an ergonomic shovel that takes pressure off your back.
• Listen to your body — twinges of pain could be its way of telling you to go easy.

“One of the best ways to clear snow is one of my favorite ways,” Busch said. “Have someone else do it.”

Barring avoiding the task entirely, if you’re inventive enough, you can go the route of Makin. Just make your own remote controlled snowblower, sit in your home and watch as it swooshes up and down your driveway while you stay warm.
You’ll have the best of both worlds — you’re clearing that snow, but not really. Plus, it’ll maybe have a few other benefits for those around you.

“I have some awkward conversations with my neighbors,” Makin said.

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