Current event: Putting major power in ol' snow shovel

January 09, 2003|By KEVIN COWHERD

HERE IS MY philosophy when it comes to shoveling snow: All in all, I'd prefer not to be involved.

Unfortunately, due to some sort of freakish spell that's apparently been cast over my family, I seem to be the only one who ever shovels at my house.

My wife doesn't shovel because she has a tricky back. The 20-year-old doesn't shovel because he's a big-shot college student now who's never home.

The 17-year-old doesn't shovel because that would interrupt her dizzying social life, and the 11-year-old doesn't shovel because he plays in 47 basketball leagues and must conserve his energy.

But apparently it's OK with the rest of the family if I shovel until I keel over, which could be any day now, the way things are going.

This winter, of course, we're all shoveling more than ever, due to the fact that Baltimore has somehow turned into Buffalo, with the snow pouring out of the sky in record amounts.

So yesterday I drove over to Suburban Ace Hardware in Cockeysville to see if there was anything new in snow-clearing equipment for poor saps like me.

The short answer was: Nope, not really.

Oh, there are snow-blowers to buy if you want to spend that kind of dough, big, hulking machines that'll rip into the snow and blow it to Vermont if you fork over two grand.

And there are chemicals to spread around if you don't mind your driveway and walkways looking as pitted as the road to Kabul.

Otherwise, the guys at Suburban said, there's the good old-fashioned snow shovel.

At this point, as I lapsed into a major depression, Mike Boulay, the owner, casually mentioned an electric shovel.

Say again? An electric shovel?

"Well, it's not real new," Boulay said, explaining that the Electric Power Shovel, from Toro, had actually been on the market for a few years. "But since we had a pretty mild winter the past two years, a lot of people don't know about it."

But this winter, he said, "it's been pretty popular, especially with seniors."

Perfect, I said. 'Cause I got the knees of an 80-year-old.

Anyway, Boulay was nice enough to let me take the Power Shovel home for a test run, so to speak.

Naturally, we were in the midst of a major thaw yesterday, with the temperature climbing to 50 degrees and the air feeling more like springtime in Paris than winter in Fargo, North Dakota.

Nevertheless, I fired up the Power Shovel and ran it over a shady, snow-covered portion of the walkway in our back yard, which I had somehow neglected to shovel during the 240 hours of shoveling I've done so far.

The Power Shovel weighs 12 pounds, which is a lot more than a regular snow shovel. But the thing is, you don't actually lift it to use it. What you do is push it along the ground and little plastic blades in the housing churn up the snow and throw it out in front of you.

So it's more of a snow-thrower than a snow shovel. Look, if you want to call Toro and quibble about that, knock yourself out.

But whatever you want to call it, it worked real well on my back walkway, and on the deck, too.

The snow there had not melted much and was still fairly light. The EPS cut through it smoothly and effortlessly. I could see why senior citizens would go for it.

In fact, Suburban assistant sales associate Jeff Tribull told me he gave an Electric Power Shovel to his 73-year-old grandmother as a gift last week, just in time for the annoying 4 or 5 inches of snow we had last Sunday.

"She called me up that night and said the thing worked great; she loved it," said Tribull, who said his grandmother had used it to clear a 60-foot walkway and a two-car driveway.

Still, there are, to be sure, a few caveats to pass along regarding the EPS.

It doesn't work well if the snow is heavy and slushy. In those conditions, it tends to push the snow, but not throw it out of the way. And let's face it, if you wanted to just push the snow, you could use a frying pan.

Another thing: It's not designed for snow deeper than 4 inches, although my man Jeff Tribull seems to feel you could use it in a blizzard, if the right strategy is adopted.

"Even if we got 12 inches, as long as you stay on top of it, go out two or three times and do a couple inches, you'll be fine," Tribull said.

But who wants to do that?

Hey, I got a life here, Jeff! I don't have time to be tramping in and out of the house every hour to shovel the driveway! The NFL playoffs are on, pal!

Plus, that violates Cowherd's Rule of Outdoor Home Maintenance, which states: Don't rake leaves until the last leaf has fallen; don't shovel snow until the last flake has hit. Otherwise, you're wasting your time.

One final drawback: the Electric Power Shovel costs more than 100 bucks, which is not exactly cheap.

Then again, it's way cheaper than a snow-blower.

Of course, the cheapest way to go is with a regular shovel.

And it would be wonderful if that shovel were wielded by a spouse or, say, one of your three kids.

Although maybe that's too much to ask.

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