Heavy snowfall means breaking out snow blowers in Sisters


Last updated 1/16/2024 at 10:04am

Photo by Bill Bartlett

Snow blowers are a popular means of moving the white stuff.

Winter came hard and fast this year. All over Sisters, folks bundled up and fired up their snow blowers - those who have them - while most of us relied on the centuries old method of shoveling by hand; a risk for many health experts warn Click here to see related story.

Snow blower sales are expected to grow at an annual rate of 6.74 percent in the U.S. and Canada from $639 million in 2021 to $935 million in 2027. More than one million of the snow tamers are sold each year.

Sisters Ace Hardware sold out as of the weekend, but can order battery powered or gas powered units in one- and two-stage models. Over at Sisters Rental, there are options ranging up to $5,000 for serious jobs.

"The problem we have is supply," said Pat Thompson, Sisters Rental owner. "I order 50 and I'm lucky to get 20."

He cited ongoing supply chain issues that begun in 2020 with the pandemic.

Thompson tells The Nugget that the number-one issue with buyers is mis-sizing.

"Mostly they get a machine not big enough for the size of their driveway or walks," he said. "And sometimes they get too much machine, and run into storage issues or navigating tight or smaller areas."

Snow blowers come in three configurations or stages - one, two and three. While a single-stage blower with a 12-18 inch width might look like a bargain at around $500, will it do the job?

"Sisters tends to get wetter snows," Thompson said. "It's heavier and can bog down with an underpowered or single-stage blower."

Then there are the factors of what's under the snow. In Sisters Country it's just as likely to be gravel as asphalt or concrete. And then there's incline or slope of the drive. Those differences are important in the selection process, especially if ice is present.

DIY experts, Family Handyman say: "A single-stage snow blower has a single high-speed auger that scrapes the snow off the ground and propels it up through the discharge chute. Single-stage machines are designed to handle average snowfall depths up to six inches on driveways up to two cars wide by two cars long.

"They can break up and remove compacted snow left from snow plows as long as you attack it early (before it freezes) and chop down the larger areas with a shovel. The auger has a rubber leading edge that helps propel the machine slightly as it scoops snow off the ground. But it's not a true self-propelled mechanism. If your drive or walk is at a steep grade, choose a two- or three-stage machine instead."

Professional landscape contractors typically use two-stage machines. Two-stage machines utilize a slow turning corkscrew-like auger that gathers snow and moves it to the center of the housing. Then the snow is pushed into a high-speed impeller that propels it out the chute. They're designed to handle snowfall depths up to 12 inches on larger driveways up to two cars wide by three cars long. Most are self-propelled with multiple forward speeds.

They have a larger auger and engine so they can chew into compacted ice and snow much easier and faster than a single-stage machine and handle more snow in a shorter period of time. Electric start is virtually standard with two and three stage machines, the latter for commercial and municipal users primarily.

The pro units are more likely to be driven by tread tracks - think tank, versus wheels. Wheeled versions are easier to store, and can be moved without starting them. Track models need power to move, but provide more traction by far.

The biggest service issue Thompson says is fuel which degrades over the summer, leading to machines that won't start when you urgently need them.


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