There is nothing as beautiful as the first snowfall of the year – crisp white flakes gently falling to cover the barren land beneath, shrouding it in a sheet of pristine white. When that initial snowfall turns into months of seemingly endless white blanketing the earth, we begin to wonder if we’ll ever see the end of winter.
There are definitely two sides to winter: the snowdrifts that echo a cozy, greeting-card scene and invoke thoughts of cuddling up in front of a warm fire, and the relentless cold, freezing rain, and driving snow that have us salting and shoveling our driveways endlessly.
And for homeowners in Northern areas, especially those with large properties and long driveways, there is the concern that the piles of snow will become insurmountable and that we’ll become trapped at home before spring finally arrives.
But with the right snowblower, even a blizzard is less daunting and clearing a foot or more of fresh snowfall is no trouble at all- and can even be fun!
What is a snow blower
One of the fastest and most efficient ways of clearing snow is with a snow blower or snow thrower. These machines, formally only used by snow removal companies, but now widely available to consumers, use a system of augers and chutes to pick up snow and blow it away.
While both Robert Carr Harris (in 1870) and Robert E. Cole (in 1923) both patented mechanical snow removers using augers, cutters, and fans, it is generally Arthur Sicard who is credited with inventing the first practical snow blower in 1925. By 1927, his vehicles were being used to clear snow from the roadways of Outremont, now a neighbourhood in Montreal, Quebec.
Different types of snow blower
Electric and Single-stage blowers
Either an electric or a single-stage snow blower can easily clear light to medium snowfalls; it is equipped with an auger which lifts and throws the snow out of the chute. It is not intended for wet or heavy snow but clears fluffy snow quite well.
The size of the auger will determine how much snow the blower can handle – a longer auger clears a wider path, and its diameter determines the depth of snow that can be thrown. The snow will usually be thrown between 10’-20’ to the side of the machine.
Small, lightweight models typically have plastic blades and heavier-duty models might have metal blades. Though these machines will typically be the least costly, they are only effective on flat and paved surfaces.
A 2-stage snow blower is also equipped with an auger, but as it doesn’t throw the snow and merely clears it, the 2-stage machine is more efficient than a single-stage blower. It can be used on either a paved or gravel surface and can handle hills as well.
The snow is collected into a chute and then the impeller blows the snow out of the chute. This means that wider and deeper swaths of snow can be handled more quickly. The impeller system also throws snow farther. Finally, most 2-stage blowers are gas-powered and self-propelled as they are considerably larger and heavier than a single-stage machine.
These blowers will tend to cost more than the single-stage type. Yet, they are required for heavier snow.
The 3-stage snow blower uses two augers to drive snow inwards to the centre of the machine where it is picked up by an induction accelerator which breaks the snow down as forces it into the impeller. These blowers can therefore have a very wide cutting path and can sometimes throw the snow up to 50’ making them easily the most effective snow blowers.
Another advantage of the 3-stage machine over the other types is that it can completely clear the path whereas, as their augers don’t actually touch the ground, single-stage and 2-stage snow blowers leave a thin layer of snow.The 3-stage snow blower can even tackle the wall of frozen, compacted snow left at the end of your driveway when the plow passes by.
The 3-stage blower is self-propelled, and may also have power steering; it can also have extra features such as heated grips or single-press chute control. These are the largest and heaviest of all three types, and are typically the most expensive. However, if you experience very heavy snow, or if complete clearing is needed, then the 3-stage snow blower is the best choice for you.
If you have an especially large driveway, there are a few important features that will make blowing snow much faster, easier and more efficient.
The majority of snow blowers are gas-powered as these models tend to perform the best. There are also electric models – either corded or battery-powered, but these plows lack the power to clear heavy snow. They would be adequate for an area that sees several light snowfalls each winter.
Though most gas-powered models have a pull-cord start like a lawn mower, many are also equipped with an electric start button, allowing you to plug it in and start it rather than struggling with the pull-cord in bad weather.
There are few daylight hours in the winter, so most people who work during the day find themselves clearing their driveways in the pre-dawn or post-twilight hours. A snow blower equipped with LED headlights will make the task considerably easier.
Choosing a snow blower with a higher clearing width will allow you to complete the job more quickly. For example, an 8’ wide driveway can be cleared in just two passes if your snow blower has a 45” clearing width.
Adjustable Chute Rotation
Being able to choose the direction and loft of the chute can help to control the redistribution of the snow. Some snow blowers have chutes that swing up to 200 degrees and be tilted up or down.
Though not strictly necessary, power steering makes clearing a long, winding driveway much easier. Turning the heavy snow blower manually several times can be quite exhausting, but a power steering system allows you to turn the machine easily with the press of a lever.
Self-Propelled Drive Train
It requires far less effort to clear a long driveway with a self-propelled snow blower – there is no need to muscle a heavy machine along when that machine can move itself.
Tracks vs. Wheels
A track drive is what is commonly seen on tanks or heavy machinery. If traction is a concern for you – perhaps your driveway has a steep incline – choosing a snow blower with a track drive system can help navigate hills, ice, or piles of deep snow.
While wheels don’t perform as well as tracks on treacherous terrain, they are considerably easier to turn on level terrain, and therefore probably the better choice if your property is quite flat.
Best Snow Blowers On The Market
Greenworks PRO 12-Inch 80V Cordless Snow Shovel Snow Blower
- Lightweight and powerful electric snow shovel
- 12” shovel width works best in snow up to 6” deep
- Can discharge snow up to 20’ forward
- Runs up to 45 minutes on a single 30-minute charge
- Convenient for removing snow buildup on roofs or other structures
This electric shovel is very handy for removing snow from tight space such as walkways and stairs. Thought it is billed as lightweight, most of the weight of this unit is at the blades and it can therefore be a bit unwieldy to maneuver. The shaft is not long enough to fully stand up while pushing the shovel, which can cause pain and stiffness in the back if using for longer periods.
Fresh snow under 6” deep can be thrown quite a distance, though deeply packed or crusted snow should be handled in downward sections. This means lifting the shovel and progressively removing layers of snow, which can be inconvenient.
The plastic blades hold up well, and can process small ice chunks easily. This snow thrower is convenient for light jobs such as walkways and patios.
ToroPower Shovel Electric Snow Thrower
- 12” clearing width can handle up to 6” of snow but is ideal for 2”-4” snowfalls
- Throws snow up to 20’
- Curved rotor and inverted funnel housing to efficiently remove snow while reducing clogging
- Telescoping handle can easily be adjusted to a comfortable height
- Lightweight electric motor is maintenance-free
This electric shovel is quite powerful and can even clear hard-packed patches of snow. In small space, it outperforms a bulkier snow blower and is much faster than shovelling by hand. It is easy enough to direct the spray of snow by controlling the speed and angle of the Power Shovel.
The telescoping handle is quite convenient, though it’s not as robust as it could be and seems like it may snap under pressure. Overall, this is a very durable device and several owners report using theirs for years with little to no trouble.
This Power Shovel is a great choice for areas where a larger snow blower would be impractical and works well on decks and walkways.
Briggs & Stratton 1022ER Single Stage Snow Thrower
- Wear-resistant rubber edged auger clears snow down to the pavement and helps propel the snow blower forward
- Engine is specially designed to start strong and power through in the toughest winter conditions
- Push button electric start for quick and easy starting down to -20 °C
- Handle-mounted remote chute rotation handle for easy chute direction changes
- Quick-adjust deflector to easily change the height and distance snow is thrown with a simple squeeze of the chute-mounted handle
While this snow thrower would be more durable with a metal auger, it can still easily clear even the packed snow left behind by the snow plow.
The pull-cord is very reliable, but having the backup electric starter is a nice option. It’s great to see a single-stage blower with and adjustable chute, though it would be more convenient if the controls were all in the same place.
Snow Joe Ultra SJ618E 18-Inch 13-Amp Electric Snow Thrower
- Ideal for quick snow pickups on mid-sized driveways and walkways
- Effortless to start and maintain
- Powerful 13-amp motor moves up to 550 lbs of snow per minute
- 2-blade auger cuts 18 in. wide by 8 in. deep with each pass.
- Rust resistant
This snow thrower combines the power of a gas machine with the convenience of an electric snow blower. It can handle heavier snowfalls on walkways and medium-sized driveways or a light snowfall on a large driveway.
The auger is made of cold-and-abrasion-resistant plastic; the discharge chute rotates 180° and the deflector is adjustable to control the direction and height of the snow stream. This snow blower also has a scraper blade at the base to clear snow to the ground without damaging the pavement or decking.
Snow Joe iON18SB Ion Cordless Single Stage Brushless Snow Blower with Rechargeable Ecosharp 40-volt Lithium-Ion Battery
- Battery provides up to 50 minutes of whisper-quiet run time on a charge
- No pull cords, gas, oil, tune-ups, carbon emissions or tangled extension cords.
- Steel auger with 2 rubber blades moves up to 495 lbs of snow per minutewithout damaging the underlying surface
- 18” clearance widthtackles snow up to 8” deep
- 180° auto-rotate directional chute throws snow up to 20’
This snow blower is lightweight at only 32 lbs, which makes it easy tolift it up to sidewalks, or decks.The engine is powerful enough to tackle a large driveway without the hassle of extension cords.
This machine has an integrated LED headlight for increased visibility. The chute rotates 180 degrees with the push of a switch and can throw snow up to 20’ away. It also has a scraper bar for clearing all the way to the ground.