How to shovel snow and clean your driveway

3-step process how to plow snow from your driveway with a shovel and clear it of snow efficiently (with video!). Don’t break your back, do it smart!

If you want some info why you can look at the article on snow shoveling physics here

Background

I live in Ottawa, Canada’s capital and we get a lot of snow (more than 2.2m – 7ft on an average year).

View from garage of snow depth on driveway with car covered in snow
View from garage of snow depth on driveway with car covered in snow

Growing up, I would love to play in the snow and help out clearing the driveway. I spent many many hours shovelling snow of all kinds and all depths. Light powder, heavy wet snow, layers of snow in between freezing rain from a centimetre all the way up to a meter.

With all this shovelling, I started slowly making adjustments on the way I was clearing snow and improving a bit every time. Eventually, I noticed I would get the job done much faster than anyone else out shovelling at the time. It’s pretty simple and the physics check out too but it does have to be adapted a bit based on how much snow and how heavy it is.

Several years ago, I finished shovelling my driveway ( 15-20cm/6-8 inches according to Environment Canada) and wondered how much time it actually took me to do. Fortunately, my neighbour was away on holiday so I had a fresh new driveway to plow. I grabbed my gopro Hero (yes the original version) popped it on the garage door and popped it on youtube. I never thought it would be viewed several thousand times (over 100k? edit: 200k) And be so helpful to some (despite a lot of very interesting comments) so I figured might as well write a bit more details to answer some of the questions. The intent of the video was never a how-to or an instructional video but it seems to work that way! At some point I might make a newer one that’s more geared to that.

I prefer a standard D-grip style snow pusher. There’s a bunch of fancy shovels, some with crooked shafts, second grips, massive scoops but they are often geared to specific situations and don’t work well all-around (or at least I haven’t found one I liked!)

For the images in this article I am using a picture during the summer from google street view several years ago. Best I have at this time, just imagine the grass is a pile of snow.

Take the following 3-step process as guidelines and remember, while it makes shovelling easier it doesn’t magically just happen, you still have to shovel it! If you are looking for the mythical Holy Grail, I have already found it for you 😉

highlighted melted ice at the end of the driveway in shape of holy grail
The Holy Grail! Or what looks like it after ice has melted.

Reference snow-clearing video

Here is the video of doing the technique on a 1 car wide, 2 car deep driveway which is a fairly simple case. This was early in the season so the snowbanks aren’t very high. Notice the driveway itself is very quick but shovelling the snow that was on the street and pushed by the plow at the end of the driveway takes quite a bit more time. Approx 15cms of snow had fallen (and I had just cleared my driveway and filmed while doing my neighbours 😛 ).

The famous video showing this snow-shovelling method in action (please subscribe and like!)

Step 1 – Shovel a path in the driveway

Start by splitting up your driveway lengthwise, typically right down the middle, but in some cases if you don’t have much room to store snow on one side you want to split it down so the bigger section is on the side where you can store snow. Basically put your shovel on the ground and just walk down from the top of your driveway to the bottom pushing and plowing the snow.

Driveway with arrow indicating first step of snow removal method
Step 1 push snow to clear one strip down the driveway

Step 2 – Push the snow towards the sides with shovel

First snow pushes to the sides

Next step, while in the path you just plowed, face one side and push the snow towards the side. Just push staying in the same spot, don’t take a step but you can extend your arm and use your legs (I one hand typically). Take a sidestep one shovel width and repeat, pushing snow towards the edge for the entire length of the driveway. For a single car driveway, one push per side should get you to the edge. For a double-wide driveway see below.

Driveway with arrows to one side indicating second step of snow removal method by pushing snow from the center to one side in single pushes
Step 2 – push snow from the center to one side in single pushes

Once you get back up, work on the other side, pushing and sidestep all the way back down.

Driveway with arrows to both sides indicating second step of snow removal method by pushing snow to from the center to the sides in a series of single pushes one for each side
Step 2 – Single driveway snow cleared with single pushes to each side

Second snow pushes to the sides

So next step all depends on your driveway size and where you started. If the snow is all the way to the edges you can move to the next step. But if you’re like me, you have a double-car driveway width and you need to push a 2nd time. Move up to the small snowbank you created with the first push and push again towards the edge, sidestep, push etc. all the way down the driveway. It will be something like this.

Driveway with arrows to one side of half width indicating second step of snow removal method by pushing snow from the center towards one sides - halfway - with a series of single pushes
Step 2 – push snow from the center towards one side – halfway – with a first series of single pushes
Driveway with arrows to both sides of half width indicating second step of snow removal method by pushing snow from the center towards both sides - halfway - with a series of single pushes one each side
Step 2 – push snow from the center towards other side – halfway – with series of single pushes
Driveway with two sets of arrows to both sides indicating second step of snow removal method by pushing snow from the center towards both sides with two series of single pushes on each side
Step 2 – push snow from the center towards both sides with two series of single pushes on both sides

For heavy/wet snow, it might be difficult to push, in that case I usually grip my shovel with both hands on the handle and use my legs/weight/both arms to push as far as possible, in some cases it still doesn’t make it to the edge, move to step 3 – heavy or wet snow to clear some out.

If there is snow above your shovel, it might not fully clean in one pass, that’s fine you can go back and push the overflow later (or do another pass on those), just try and get as much snow close to the edge as possible.

Step 3 – Lift/throw snow onto snowbank

Once you’ve pushed the snow to the edge of the driveway (or if it can’t be pushed any further) then it’s time to start lifting the snow onto the snowbank (if you are far you will need to throw it). Same concept as before, lift/throw sidestep, lift/throw sidestep all the way down. You may need to do it in 2 lifts if snow is too heavy, don’t kill yourself, lift with your legs.

Driveway with white arrows on one side indicating third step of snow removal method by lifting snow pushed on the edge onto the snowbank
Step 3 – Lift snow pushed to edge of driveway onto snowbank
Driveway with white arrows on both sides indicating third step of efficient snow removal method by lifting snow pushed on the edge onto the snowbank
Snow clearing complete!

Heavy or wet snow

If you had to throw the snow because it was too heavy to push to the edge and it cleared up the accumulation a bit, you can try pushing again (step 2) but you might just have to lift/throw from now on. It would look something like this (plus the final lift/throw after).

Driveway with white arrows on both sides indicating optional step of efficient snow removal method when show is too heavy by throwing snow pushed to one side onto the snowbank
Step 3 – when show is too heavy throw snow when it can no longer be pushed onto the snowbank

So hopefully after all that, you’re done! The first time not go super smoothly but do little tweaks you need for your own driveway and snow type. As one Youtuber commented, you can also follow up with your shovel on the sides and clean up whatever snow is not even to make both snowbanks look clean and nice.

Tips and Tricks (Things to keep in mind/adjustments)

  • Lack of room for snow on one side – this is actually my situation, if you look at the picture, there is not enough room to pack snow on the left side if I start halfway down. So instead of half way, I line up about 3/4 to one side, 2 pushes on one side, one push on the other. My actual clearing looks something like this:
Modification of efficient snow removal method when less room is available on one side, by biasing the location of the first step where and how much snow is pushed to each side
When less room is available on one side, biasing the location of the first step to push more snow to one side
  • Shovelling snow can cause stress and there are numerous heart attacks every year. Make sure to be hydrated before and stretch if you need it.
  • Different shovels for different snow types!! I have two shovels with different widths, if its super heavy, use the smaller one. One also has a reinforced base so its better for scraping off ice or tire marks.
  • For huge dumps of snow (or rain/snow), go out and shovel multiple times. When there’s a few inches/cms of snow its pretty easy and fast. As the snow starts to accumulate, it gets harder and harder so go shovel it out often before it accumulates. It’s much easier than waiting for the snow to be over your shovel and you can’t do this technique as effectively. When I hear of people complain that its all iced up and super deep or super soaked most of the time its because they waited (if it happens overnight, unless you want to set an alarm it can happen). If its going to dump over night, go out last thing at night and first thing in the morning.
  • Depending on your driveway/obstacles and snow you get you may need to change the amount of times you push or how much you throw
  • If you have a snowblower you can always just do the push part with your shovel and use the snowblower for the lift/throw part
  • Make sure to remove tire marks/tracks or unevenness from your driveway, after getting rid of the snow. It will prevent you from pushing snow as smoothly and can be super annoying. If you have to move cars around, remove the snow where they are going to move so they don’t create any.
  • If the surface is slippery or icy after, use salt (if your weather allows) or grit to avoid someone falling
  • I often like to clear the street “upstream” (ie where the snow plow will come from) of snow and shovel that onto my property. The snow plow will push that snow onto your driveway when it passes and then it will be thick, heavy and potentially huge unliftable chunks. Doing it upfront won’t remove all the snow from the plow but it makes it much easier
  • If you have time, why not help out a neighbour? They may pay back the favour later that year. (This is especially good if you shovel powder for them a few times and they have a snowblower to help you out when you get a massive dumping of super heavy snow)
  • If the snow is super heavy and you can’t throw it, you can always walk it over to the side and dump it. It’s not as fast but it’s easier.

Thoughts, comments, ideas? Please post them below! I will update this as I have time 🙂


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Comments

3 Responses to “How to shovel snow and clean your driveway”

  1. Deb Avatar
    Deb

    I just tried your method of shoveling snow from my driveway and it worked perfectly! My 66 year old back is very thankful! ♥️

    1. admin Avatar

      Glad to hear it was helpful! Thanks for letting us know, really appreciate it!

  2. […] I get comments that my shovelling technique (see article here) is too hard or takes too much energy. I think people don’t understand why this technique […]

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