Living in Minnesota in the winter has both benefits and drawbacks. The benefits apply to everyone. The drawbacks usually only apply to adults.
First the benefits: The fresh snow is pretty. Jack Frost does his magic periodically to get all the amateur photographers excited until the sun melts the frost white landscape. There is usually hockey to watch or play somewhere. Deluxe ice fishing homes get to be put out on frozen lakes. Fireplaces can create ambiance and warmth with a flick of a switch. Being a kid making snow angels in the yard and forts in the snow banks.
There are less-than-fun aspects of winter, usually what happens when you become an adult. Now you are responsible for clearing the driveway, pulling the snow off the roof to avoid ice dams and paying the high heating bills. You get to move your car to who-the-heck-knows-where when the city declares a Snow Emergency and dodge the inevitable potholes on almost every road.
Even if you hire a snow removal service to manage what you do have control over, take care to avoid these potential danger in your yard. When several inches of snow falls at once, the air is cold and the snow is heavy, getting close to the part where the pavement hits the grass is good enough, right? There is still room to park the car(s) and walk to the front door. Then it snows again. Shoveling “close” to the edge that was previously created is good enough. It snows again. Repeat. Before you know it, the 2-car driveway that connected your house to the street in the summer has become a tunnel that you can barely fit 2 cars – and the doors now open into snow banks. The pretty sidewalk to the front door looks like a mini half-pipe for mini snowboarders.
Improper snow removal can shrink your paved areas to the point of being dangerous. It puts your family, the package delivery guy, emergency services and the neighborhood kids selling their fundraising items for their team or camp money at risk when they are on your property. That means the liability if something happens to them when they are in your driveway tunnel or sidewalk half-pipe is yours.
To avoid a potential disaster of “good enough” snow and ice removal, here are some tips to teach your kids/teenagers about clearing a driveway:
- Dress like it’s winter, because it is. You will get cold and you don’t need to go back to the house 15 times to “warm up” (code for: text friends) because you didn’t wear a hat or gloves while clearing the snow.
- After – or during – the first snowfall, shovel ALL the snow off the flat parts (paved driveway, sidewalks, patios – if necessary for your grill access) until you hit grass. Put the snow on top of the grass. No exceptions. If there is a ton of snow, you could possibly be shoveling it more than once from the same snowfall.
- When you are complete, the city plows will come by and ruin your work and you’ll have to lift that ridiculously heavy pile at the end of the driveway onto where the grass or landscaping is supposed to be.
- You will need to shovel around the mailbox so the mail carrier can pull up to it. The same goes for the access to the fire hydrant in the front yard.
- After the second and subsequent snowfalls, the same rules apply.
- Any areas that didn’t get shoveled down to the pavement may need to be finished by spreading white pellets over the area. Some people call those pellets “salt” – but they are NOT salt, so DO NOT EAT THEM. They are called snow-melt.
- Spreading a bag of snow-melt does not substitute for shoveling, and is to be wiped off the bottom of your boots before coming into the house. There is nothing to melt in the foyer.
- Repeat after each snowfall until Mother Nature decides to create rain instead.
- Hot chocolate and your unanswered texts will be waiting inside when you’re done.
Your nicely cleared driveway and sidewalks will reduce slip and fall hazards, while melting ice and snow faster with the warmer late winter sun, leaving you more time for snow angels and honing your amateur photography skills.