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13 tools to tame winter: get equipped to handle snow and ice.


Snow and ice season is here, and if you aren't prepared you could wind up spinning your wheels or lying flat on your back. Managing the white stuff is a life-saving necessity for those who live out in the country. For others, it is a combination of convenience and cost savings. In either case, with the right tools at your disposal, winter's worst doesn't have to slow you down.

From a novel shovel design to save your back, to traction devices that'll keep your feet beneath you, we'll show you how to plow your way through the season. And we'll try to have some fun in the process.

1 Ice grippers. Keeping your footing is critical to enjoying winter and getting the chores done safely. With a pair of ice grippers between your shoes and the ground, there's no more slipping, sliding or falling flat on your back. YakTrax ( offers easy-to-use grippers that work like tire chains. DueNorth's ( version is every bit as easy to use, but it works more like studded snow tires. Keep several pairs of these bonesavers handy, and you will dare to tread outside even after the most treacherous ice storm.


2 Walk-behind snow thrower. If a shovel doesn't suit your fancy or you have a little more snow to move, you might consider a walk-behind snow thrower (sometimes called a single-stage snowblower). Snow throwers use electricity or engine power to turn a set of paddles that lift snow off the ground and throw it out of the way. Most snow throwers aren't self-propelled, so they are best used where the snow is fluffy and you don't have too much of it to move. If your driveway is paved with gravel, you will want to think twice about using a thrower. Check with Toro, Cub Cadet or your local outdoor power equipment dealer to sort through the possibilities.


Walk-behind snowblower. This big brother to the snow thrower is designed to move more snow faster. These two-stage machines employ an auger or paddle arrangement to feed snow to a fan-like blower that sends the white stuff flying with force. Snowblowers are generally self-propelled, powered with gasoline-burning engines and capable of powering their way through everything from hard-packed drifts to wet, slushy precipitation. These machines are best used on paved surfaces, but will work well on frozen gravel coated with a compacted layer of snow. Check with your local Ariens dealer for a complete lineup of blowers.

4 Walk-behind blades. Years ago the "garden tractor industry was based on two-wheeled, walk-behind machines. For the most part, they were replaced with riding tractors during the 1960s. However, if you already own a two-wheel machine, such as DR Power's Field and Brush Mower (above) or a BCS rear-tine tiller, you can simply remove the mowing deck or tiller and attach a blade to push all but the deepest snow out of your way DR also offers a high-capacity snow thrower attachment for its power unit.

5 Vehicle-mounted blades. Whether you own an ATV, UTV, pickup, tractor or Jeep-like vehicle, there is a snowplow attachment built to fit. By converting your substantial investment in machinery and/ or vehicles into something that will make your life easier, you can save money to boot. Choose light-duty models if your snow-moving needs are relatively small, or heavy-duty devices if you plan to do a little custom plowing on the side. Check with your local implement dealer, or on the Internet, to see what's available.


6 Machinery-mounted blowers. If you need to move tons of deep snow in areas where it's difficult to push piles away from a path with a plow, you might consider one of these more expensive, but effective snowblowers. The units that mount on the front of an ATV or UTV typically carry their own engine, although some will tap into the hydraulic system of the Those that mount on the tractor will generally attach to the three-point hitch and receive power from the tractor's Power Takeoff (PTO)--one or more spinning shafts that can be used to power a variety of implements. Mounted snowblowers range from about 4 feet wide to more than 8 feet wide and are available in light-, medium- and heavy-duty models. See your outdoor power equipment dealer or search the Web to learn more.

7 Machinery-mounted rotary brooms. Large, horizontally oriented, rotating brooms can make short work of clearing lanes and sidewalks. These devices come in sizes to fit everything from lawn tractors and zero-turning-radius mowers to full-sized tractors. Some are powered with their own engine, while others rely on the platform's PTO or hydraulic system to make them spin. Rotary brooms are great for moving light, dry snow and leave the surface practically slip-free. John Deere, New Holland and others offer brooms for their tractors. Models sized to fit smaller machines can be found at your local outdoor power dealer and online.


8 Weed Torch Turned Snow Dragon. Flame Engineering ( offers propane torches suitable for everything from heating cold engines to killing weeds to mass melting of snow and ice. Available under the Red Dragon and Weed Dragon brand names, these economical tools can be used for primary snow and ice removal or for finishing up after the shoveling, blowing or plowing is completed. The benefits of a torch include easy removal of hard-packed snow and ice, and you can use it to completely dry your sidewalk or steps (as long as they aren't flammable).

9 Snow tires and tracks. If you live out in the country in the Snowbelt, you might consider keeping a set of snow tires on hand to help your vehicle get around safely. In some areas, it's still legal to mount tires adorned with little metal studs, which can be invaluable on icy and snowy roads. Likewise, if you have turf-tires mounted on your ATV, UTV or tractor, you will get more go out of them in winter if you swap in a set of tires with more aggressive lugs. And if you need to get your ATV, UTV, tractor or pickup across the homestead after a blizzard, consider mounting a set of tracks on all four corners. Tracks are expensive, and installing them is not simple, but they are ideal for extreme winter conditions. Check them out online at and www.


10 Tire chains. Nothing will keep your tractor, truck or utility vehicle moving through deep, icy or sloppy snow like a set of tire chains on the drive wheels. The downside to these simple and relatively inexpensive traction aids is that they limit the vehicle's top speed substantially: And if one comes loose while heading down to the mailbox, there's a good chance that it will beat a new contour into the pickups fender. Look for chains at your local farm store, tire dealer and online.

11 Shovel. We have nothing against moving snow with a grain scoop or even a traditional snow shovel, but if you need to move plenty of snow and want to do it by hand, consider the Wovel (www. This ingenious device consists of a shovel mounted on a single wheel that requires no heavy lifting, relying instead on a lever and fulcrum to help you throw the snow. Billed as the world's safest snow shovel, the Wovel is almost as fast as a snow thrower, requires no fossil fuel and is perfect for larger driveways and short lanes.

12 Winch. No matter how well you prepare for winter, there's always a chance your vehicle will slide or sink into trouble. Installing a winch on your pickup, ATV or UTV is one way to prepare for such inevitabilities. The winch is a perfect partner for pulling other vehicles out of a snowy ditch. It also can be used to extract the vehicle it's mounted on from similar situations.

13 Tow strap. As tempting as it is to use a chain to

pull winter-stuck vehicles, should that chain break under tension, there's a good chance someone or something will get seriously hurt. Elastic woven tow straps, on the other hand, are less expensive and are designed to stretch, not break, when subjected to heavy loads. A tow strap sized for each of your vehicles should be part of your kit whenever you go exploring during winter.
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Author:Will, Oscar H., III
Publication:Mother Earth News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2009
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