The Lost Art of Shovelling Snow

The Lost Art of Shovelling Snow

Winter Bicycle

And so sits my old winter bicycle on this snowy day in February. Still waiting for me to bring it in and create a new winter bike from it and the frame of another.

Overnight left us with 30 cm of the white stuff. Once the snow stopped, and the sky cleared, a beautiful winters’ day appeared. But since snow doesn’t just fall where you want it to, before anything else could happen the driveway had to be cleared.

The lost art of shovelling snow

I don’t mind winter like some, nor do I mind shovelling snow. In fact, I kind of like it.  It is an opportunity to get outside before any other winter activities are possible. It does however, require a mental shift from the established belief that shovelling snow is akin to the punishment Sisyphus received; to repeat an activity over and over again with no end in sight.

However a slight change in perception can reveal many things.  

First of all snow shovelling is an excellent workout. Why travel to a gym when your workout is waiting in your driveway? If done right it strengthens the upper back, shoulders and core. Lifting 10 lbs (4.5 kilograms) of snow upwards of 200 times and throwing it as much as 10 ft (3 metres) equals a good workout by any measure. And according to MyFitnessPal it burns 585 calories per hour. Cyclists could benefit from the mid-winter upper body work and the calorie burn.

Any time spent outside tends to relax and open the mind. Add exercise and even better. For however long it takes to clear my driveway, my mind is able to reflect on recent events; creative ideas come and go by the dozen it seems. I become more in tune with who I am and can create space for what remains in my day. It’s all good!

Personally, what I like most about shovelling snow is that it takes me back to the times when I shovelled snow beside my Father. As a commercial fisherman, he was home more in the winter than the spring, summer or fall and that time was golden. I probably didn’t like shovelling then, but I’m glad I did it. The conversations, the sense of security and the lessons learned made me a better person. He actually taught me how to shovel snow.  Yes, there is a “better” way in case you were wondering.

Blocking snow in Nova Scotia

It is a simple technique: You just block-up the snow. This way you only lift as much as you or your shovel can handle.  There is no spilling of snow from the shovel requiring more clean-up. You readily see the progress of your efforts.  It makes a really neat clearing.  You can throw the snow further back making room if a larger snowfall should happen later and snow doesn’t tumble back down on the recently cleared areas. There is likely more reasons that didn’t come to mind in that brief brainstorm.

The best snow shovel

I find a basic long handled shovel perfect. I replaced the original handle on my shovel with one that increased the length to nearly 6 ft (180cm). I can reach further and throw farther with almost no involvement from my lower back. The plastic blade doesn’t stick to the snow, it is light and durable. I have shunned the use of snow scoops for various reasons. Snowblowers burn gas, break sheer pins, lose chains, get clogged, produce large plumes of snow that blow back in your face, cost a lot, can be hard to maneuver and sometimes just wont start.

Since starting FreeLander Bicycles a few years back I have taken a minimalist approach to most things.  As with vintage bicycles, a simpler approach is often better.  Why would you ride a bicycle with all the components for 27 speeds when a three speed is perfect for city riding?  This is consistent with Patrick Rhone’s Amish approach to technology and the ubiquitous minimalism movement which are liberating to say the least. I love my simple shovel. Just something to think about. 

Take care,


Snow Shovelling in Nova Scotia

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