Have snow fear got a blower?

November 02, 1996|By Rob Kasper

THINKING I was staying a step ahead of old man winter, I called area hardware stores yesterday and inquired about their selection of snow blowers. I got laughed at. I was told that if I see a snow blower I liked, or even one I was slightly fond of, I should get it while the gettin' was good. Most guys, I was told, bought their snow blowers last summer.

It seems that everybody who got sore shoveling last year's record 88 1/2 inches of snow has been out shopping this year for mechanical help.

Around here we used to believe we could battle snow by hand. But last winter changed that outlook. Now we want power.

"Five years ago it seemed like you couldn't give snow blowers away," said Mike Boulay, owner of Suburban Sales and Rental Center in Cockeysville. Then came last winter. Last year, not only did Boulay's customers buy every snow blower he had in the store, they also paid him to track down snow blowers from stores in the Midwest and have them shipped to Baltimore.

This year, customers began buying snow blowers in July, when Boulay usually sells lawn mowers. Many of the July buyers were fellows who had ordered their equipment last winter, when the snow was plentiful, and snow blowers were sold out.

Prices of the Torro and John Deere brands in his store range, he said, from $400 for the mild-mannered three-horsepower models $1,900 for the 10-horsepower, knock-the-snow-into-the- next-county model.

Yesterday, Boulay said he had a few of the smaller snow blowers in stock, but was waiting for a fresh shipment of the bigger models to show up.

Boulay was one of several salesmen I spoke with who gave me the impression they would leap for joy if an 18-wheeler carrying a load of snow blowers pulled up at their loading dock.

In Annapolis, a clerk at a Hechinger store said she was "biting her nails" in anticipation of the arrival of a shipment of heavy duty snow blowers.

In Glen Burnie, a supervisor at The Home Depot told me any snow removal device, from a half-horsepower model about the size of a Weed Whacker to the 11-horsepower numbers that can throw snow on a distant neighbor's picture window, was selling almost as fast as it hit the store.

Throughout the Northeast, sales of snow removal equipment have already been so strong this year in the 102 Home Depots in the region that store managers have repeatedly reordered stock, said Katrina Blauvelt, a spokeswoman at the company's corporate headquarters in Atlanta.

The news that a snow blower might be hard to get only made me want one more.

You'll notice I said "want" one, not "need" one.

There is some question whether we will get enough snowfall this year to make buying a snow blower a worthwhile investment. Predictions of what kind of winter we are going get have been all over the lot. I have seen predictions based on sun spots, on the thickness of a caterpillar's coat, and on prior weather patterns. Some say we are going to get dumped on this winter, with predicted totals of up to 51 inches of snow. Others say we are going to have a normal 15-to-25-inch total snowfall this winter.

I think people who shoveled out their long driveways last year don't really care what the predictions say. They have decided they don't ever want to shovel that much snow again. They are buying snow blowers.

After talking with Boulay about different types of equipment, I realized I should be looking for a snow thrower, not a snow blower. The less expensive snow thrower, he said, pushes the snow to the side of the pavement with a fast-moving paddle. A snow blower, by contrast, works in two stages. First it picks the snow up with augers, then throws it. The more powerful the snow blower, the greater its toss.

The more I thought about my snow removal needs, the more I realized I couldn't justify buying any motorized equipment. I live in a rowhouse, the amount of pavement I have to shovel consists of a little bit of sidewalk and a parking pad. Moreover, I already have two snow throwers in the household, my sons, 15 and 11.

So I talked myself out of buying a machine that makes noise and moves snow, at least for this year. But that doesn't mean I still don't want one. Maybe next year.

Pub Date: 11/02/96

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