What are the Best Tips for Shoveling Snow?

Daniel Liden

Shoveling snow is an integral part of many people's winters. Especially in the north, snow can fall endlessly and greatly impede transportation, even when the mailbox is the only destination. Shoveling, then, is essential to keep the snow out of the way and to maintain a path to the mailbox, garage, or car. Shoveling snow, however, can be strenuous work; the difficult nature of the task combined with very cold weather conditions can lead to many health risks. As such, there are several tips one should follow to stay safe and to clear the driveway as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Rock salt, which can be used to keep ice from building back up on shoveled areas.
Rock salt, which can be used to keep ice from building back up on shoveled areas.

As with any strenuous task, shoveling snow can put considerable strain on the heart. The cold air makes it harder to breathe, meaning that less oxygen enters the body. Those who have a history of heart disease, who have had a heart attack in the past, or who typically lead inactive lifestyles should check with their doctors before engaging in such a strenuous task as shoveling snow. Additionally, it is important to stay hydrated and to take breaks if necessary to reduce the strain on the heart and body.

Breaks should be taken as needed when shoveling snow.
Breaks should be taken as needed when shoveling snow.

Muscles and bones are also put at risk by the strains of shoveling snow. A significant amount of strain is placed on the back, and shoveling can lead to many back injuries. To avoid back injury, it is important to maintain good posture while shoveling. This means that the feet should stay about shoulder width apart and when it is necessary to bend over, one should bend at the knees instead of the back. Ice is also a concern; it is prudent to throw down some salt or sand to prevent slipping.

Shoveling snow invariably involves cold weather, which presents a few dangers of its own. It is important to dress appropriately to the conditions, as there are many risks to working in the cold weather. Gloves and padded boots can effectively prevent frostbite in the extremities, and a warm hat can protect the ears. Dressing in warm layers can prevent hypothermia, a condition in which the temperature of the body drops to dangerously low levels.

After shoveling snow from one's driveway, sidewalk, or other area, it is wise to sprinkle rock salt over the shoveled area. If freezing weather persists, the shoveled area could freeze over and present some danger to vehicles and people. Salt will melt the snow and ensure safety.

Winter boots should be worn when shoveling snow.
Winter boots should be worn when shoveling snow.

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Discussion Comments


I use an 18" shovel with an ergonomic bent handle and it works great! The bent handle has made all the difference for my back. Lowe's and Home Depot carry them. I believe it is made by Suncast.


I have advice for those who live in windy areas. Use the shoveled snow to create snow berms. Place the berms alongside the walkway. These berms will prevent most of the snow from drifting into your shoveled areas during the wind. This can be especially helpful during blizzards and storms, but they take a while to build up. Start piling the snow near the area to be shoveled at the beginning of the season, and keep throwing the snow behind the banks as the season wears on. Another added benefit of building berms is they protect people walking along the paths from strong winds.


My advice is to buy a good snow shovel. The investment is worth saving your back. A nice shovel with a curved handle will be easier to lift and throw, and will prevent you from needing to hunch over all the time.

That being said, it’s also easiest to shovel up a hill rather than down a hill. If you start shoveling from the lowest point, then you will be able to stand upright as you make your way up the slope. If your driveway slopes down, start shoveling from the bottom. Start shoveling from the house side if it slopes up.


Here's a tip. Shovel snow more often. It doesn't sound like fun, but it will be less strenuous and will be much quicker if you only have to shovel a couple inches compared to a foot or more. I usually do my first shoveling as soon as I wake up (good cardio exercise) then I go out every few hours thereafter.

The first time out is always the hardest, but it wakes me up, and then I can go back inside and hop into a hot shower. After that, it only takes minutes to remove the piled up snow in a sort of sweeping motion. I also spread rock salt after the first shoveling of the day so that guests do not slip and fall.

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