Miller: Shovel ready – or not |

Miller: Shovel ready – or not

As we stand here in the middle of one of the better snow years in some time, it’s interesting to look at the white stuff from a perspective outside skiing. I injured my back a few weeks ago and, while recovering, I’ve been issued strict instructions from my physical therapy guru Teri Day not to touch a snow shovel. Skiing, too, is out of the question – a development that instantaneously transformed the big dumps of snow we’ve been getting from a wonderful thing to cursed scourge from hell.

Perhaps it’s a holdover from my days as a lift operator, but if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s an un- or improperly shoveled walk or driveway. As anyone who’s ever bumped a chair knows, moving snow around is a big part of the liftie’s job, and those who take the job seriously get to be rather picky about our snow “hygiene.” Ramps are scraped, motor rooms are cleaned off, mazes shoveled, enclosures packed and, as time allows, all surrounding mounds of snow are shaped and manicured and – if it’s a really slow day – turned into sculptures. In a year like this, the work to groom your station into snow perfection is never-ending.

So, when I had to turn snow-shoveling over to our 9-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter, well … let’s just say that, much though I appreciated their help, their idea of a properly shoveled walk and drive differed greatly from mine. Even with cash rewards offered, Andy would usually grow weary of the whole enterprise after 10 minutes or so, and wander off to work on his ever-growing (and now mostly buried) snow fort. Kaylie complained the snow is rather heavy to lift – and did we really need to shovel if there were only a few inches?

Helpless, I watched as our walkway turned from being just improperly shoveled to a sort of mini glacier during the recent warm weather. With this sharp cold snap, it is now turning into an impenetrable ice sheet, likely here to stay until April or May. My wife has wisely forsaken the front walk altogether and opted for the garage entrance.

Meanwhile, even as my back is feeling a whole lot better, Teri warns that I’m in a “vulnerable” period, easily set back again were I so much as to look at a snow shovel. Cooking and doing dishes, it turns out, are also bad activity choices due to the standing and bending over involved. I miss the first; the second, not so much.

I know there are plenty of guys out there who sympathize. For many a Summit County male, clearing away snow is akin to what mowing the lawn and edging the grass is for our low-country brethren. We’re the types who are not fine letting some of it accumulate, and believe it’s not OK if the walkway only has a narrow path through it. Come April, we’re the ones out there chipping away at the ice, and we know, deep in our DNA, that these extra ministrations are somehow necessary.

When it comes right down to it, I like futzing with snow.

Back in the 1980s, my folks owned an auto parts store in Frisco and for a time after college I worked there. My vehicle was the shop’s Dodge pickup truck, and in the winter I had a plow mounted on the front. Many a happy morning I’d pop a tape in the deck and plow, plow, plow for hours, content in the mindless back-and-forth, up-and-down of it all. Driving around with a plow bouncing on the front of your truck makes one feel almost invulnerable, and you’re also in the position to come to the rescue of anyone who needs a quick swipe of the driveway: what would take an hour with a shovel can be done in minutes with a plow.

Later, I had a snowblower when we lived in Silverthorne – a cumbersome, smelly and noisy beast that worked well enough when I wasn’t busy picking the morning newspaper out of its blades.

Today, in this mega-snow year, I’m consigned to watch from the sidelines for a while. The recent break in storms has been a blessing, and I can only hope that, by the time Ullr unleashes his next bountiful wave, my aging and aching back will be up to the task.

Summit Daily editor Alex Miller can be reached at or (970) 668-4618.

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