Real Men Use a Shovel


Image courtesy of debspoons /

In Minnesota, we joke that there are only two seasons: Winter, and Road Construction. We DO occasionally say “You betcha,” although not as often, and not as dramatically as in the movies. We eat tator tot hot dish, and in my city the average snow fall is just under 52 inches per year.

Walking outside the morning after a fresh snowfall, you can hear snow blowers humming away all over my neighborhood. But you’ll never hear the roar of a snow blower engine coming out of my garage, because I don’t own one.

I clear my driveway the old fashioned way. With a shovel.

Owning a snow blower in Minnesota is as common as a deer head hanging from the living room wall.  Both of them are symbols of mid-western living that are almost a rite of passage into adulthood.

Author’s note: Just for the record, I don’t have a deer head either.

When I first got married, I would declare each spring that we had just completed the last winter without a snow blower. But with the beginning of the next winter I would look at the $600 – $800 price tag of a quality snow blower and question whether it would be a worth-while purchase.

I would think about the time I opened my garage door after a 3 inch snowfall to see my neighbor just firing up his snow blower. Wondering if having a snow blower would save me time, I decided to race him.  The steel blade of my shovel sparked across the concrete,  and I launched snow into my yard at a dizzying pace.

We completed at exactly the same time.

I would remember when we got a heavy, wet, 7 inches of snow. I was shoveling away, when I realized my neighbor’s blower was starting and stopping every few minutes. The sticky snow kept clogging up the chute, causing him to stop and clear out the machine, start it back up and then continue.  He was still working on his driveway when I hung up my shovel and went inside.

I would recall the 20+ inches of snow dumped on us in 2005 during the largest March snowfall ever recorded in Rochester, MN.  With a large snowfall anticipated, I had shoveled every couple of hours as to not have two feet of snow to shovel all at once. Our neighbors were out of town, and someone had come to clear the driveway for them. They put forth a valiant effort, but eventually they determined the snow was too tall of an order for the snow blower, and pulled out the shovels.

Finally, I thought about the bonus workout I would get in the 15-20 minutes it takes me to clear an average snowfall from the driveway.

One day, the thrill of racing my neighbors will be gone, and the thumping heartbeat I get from the exercise of shoveling the driveway will give way to an aching back the next morning. When that day arrives, maybe my viewpoint on purchasing a snow blower will change.

Until then, when the snow flies, I’ll be grabbing my trusty shovel.





About Travis

24 Responses to “Real Men Use a Shovel”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. I will admit that I probably would have gotten a snow blower if I lived there but now after reading this I would do my own test. The exercise benefit alone probably makes shoveling a better choice. Luckily I live in Florida and don’t ha e to make these decisions.

    • Travis says:

      I’m into working out more now than anytime in my life. The thought of getting a bonus workout in by shoveling the driveway is WAY more appealing than using a snow blower! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lance!

  2. Tons of calories burned! 408 hour for 150 pounder according to

  3. JMK says:

    If you’re getting 52 inches of snow and taking only 15-20 minutes to shovel you either have the worlds tiniest laneway or you get it in 2-3 inch amounts repeatedly all winter so it’s never much to deal with at one time. If that’s the case, shovelling will likely do the trick.

    In our part of eastern Canada we’ve already received about 2 feet and the snow banks along the street are well over 4feet. A normal winter here brings about 75 inches of snow. I spent over two hours yesterday shovelling a portion of the roof with my husband and son, and that along with the front walk out to the point where the blower can take over is all the shovelling we need. Normally we only shovel the roof if there is more than 2ft, but it’s going above freezer here for the next 4 days and we could have a problem if we don’t reduce the giant pile (deep snow on a roof+ mild weather=ice daming leading to leaks, for those in warmer climates). We have a blower, as do many of our neighbours, but hiring a snow removal service is just as common (~$450/yr regardless of snowfall). We have the number of snow removal company that will do our laneway only on request rather than committing to the full seashon. For our ~200 feet laneway it’s $50 or just the plow ridge for $25. They’ll also shovel roofs for $150-300 and after yesterday’s “fun” I’m seriously considering that option for next time. Every year I threaten to hire a company for the season, and get talked out of it. We’ve already invested in the blower and most of the time the DIY approach is fine. On the other hand my DH travels regularly and everytime he’s away in the winter, that’s when we get a big dump of the white stuff. Doing our laneway with a blower (never have jamming problems) takes 90 minutes if it’s fluffy and just a few inches, but up to 3 hours if it’s heavy or very deep. And as anyone in a snowy area knows as soon as you think you’re done, the plow goes by again and dumps another couple of feet across the end of your laneway.
    Every year there are news reports of people having heart attacks shovelling. Our chiropractor wishes a snowblower could be writting off as a medical device – a big part of his business in the winter is dealing with messed up backs from bad shoveling technique. If I lived in the city and had only a few feet of front walk to deal with, maybe I’d consider sticking to a shovel. Most of the folks I know who live in the suburbs use a snow removal service even for their little laneways. Having a truck mounted blower launch your snow into the middile of your front yard means your snow banks don’t get piled up so high, and you can safely back out of your lane way. Those who shovel have massive snowbanks and can’t properly see oncoming traffic so the back into the street slowly, hoping that any traffic will be able to stop.

    We have a saying here that you don’t pay hockey to get in shape, you get in shape to play hockey (far fewer heart attacks that way) and the same applies to shovelling snow. New neighbours moved in a couple of years ago. He was 30 and a gym teacher. Of course he thought he was up to the task of shovelling. That lasted 1.5 storms and then we hear the blower fire up in his laneway. If he wasn’t up to it, then nobody here is. On the other hand I have no objection to him cutting his own grass all summer, shirtless of course! 😉

    • Travis says:

      The majority of snowfalls here are 5 inches or less – and I can push 5 inches of snow no problem. It’s when we get more than that it’s a problem. My normal technique when we get larger amounts of snow is to clear the driveway every couple of hours to break the work into pieces. What you’re describing sounds like the Upper Peninsula of of Michigan. They get lake effect snow (off the Great Lakes) – when it snows, it’s usually measured in feet, not inches. LOL.

      Wishing your new neighbor to mow his lawn shirtless…shame shame, JMK – men are more than just pieces of meat! Hahahahaha. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your shoveling experiences with the rest of EOD Nation!

  4. Laurie says:

    Travis – great post! We too are Minnesotans, and we’ve just begun our fight out of debt and are blogging about it as well. Your post gave hubby and I a good giggle as we reminisced over this year’s snowstorms. Thanks for sharing your experiences and your advice. We look forward to hearing more. Happy shoveling :-)!

    • Travis says:

      Hi Fellow Minnesotans! Where in the great state are you located? I’ll have to wander over to your website and check it out – hope you guys are having a great winter!

      • Laurie says:

        Thanks, Travis! We are about 45 min north of the cities in Chisago. We just moved up here from Woodbury. The first big storm of the year up here gave us a good 20 inches of wet, sloppy
        snow. :-). Things sure are different out here in the country! Looking forward to sharing our debt free journeys!

        • Travis says:

          Awesome, Laurie! I saw that Bible Money Matters is on your blog roll……he has a list of Minnesota Personal Finance Bloggers (see link below), and coordinated a meetup a few months ago for anyone that could make it to get together for a few hours and get to know each other. There are plans to have them every couple of months. I encourage you to get on his list if you’re interested in participating…I couldn’t make the first one and was sorely disappointed. Hoping to make the next one (not scheduled yet)!

          • Laurie says:

            Ironically, I saw that and just emailed him yesterday. Yeah, we’re hoping to make the next one too. Thank Travis, and have a great day!

  5. debtgirl says:

    Winter and Road Construction, now that was funny! We don’t have snow issues here in So. Cal, but we do have to worry about shaky ground!! That is FA.Reaky!

    • Travis says:

      I dunno how you CA folks deal with the whole earthquake thing…..we have tornadoes, but at least we can somewhat forecast those. I can’t imagine having the earth just start to randomly shake! FAReaky for SURE! 🙂

  6. My favorite person from Minnesota has never said “You betcha”, but she always says “bag” as “beg”. =)

    I only lived up north for a few years, and luckily never had to shovel snow. But I do sweep the driveway with a broom instead of using a leafblower! That’s probably the closest S. FL comparison I’ve got.

    • Travis says:

      LOL – I’ve used a leaf blower to “sweep” my garage too, Mrs. Pop. I had a friend from Kentucky also make fun of how we say “Root Beer” too.

  7. I’m a shovel man myself! We live in MI where it is always cold, cold, cold! Every year, my wife asks me if I’m going to buy a snow blower and I always tell her no. I like the workout and its just not that bad.

  8. I don’t live in an area that gets alot of snow, but if I did I would definitely use a shovel! Great way to exercise.

  9. Country Girl says:

    I’m in one of those lake effect snow belt areas, and I love my snow blower (best Christmas gift ever). Last year, pre-snowblower, I shovelled my driveway the old fashioned way and it took me an hour and a half each time. Mind you, my driveway is pretty long and wide. It’s great that you shovel out your driveway though, because you’re right – it’s a kick-ass workout!

    • Travis says:

      I can totally understand having a snow blower if you get that kind of snow. I had an intern that went to college in the UP of Michigan. While he was working with me we had a Winter Snow Warning forecasting 4-6 inches of snow, and he just about fell out of his chair laughing. Crazy amount of lake snow in the UP…..

  10. Mr. 1500 says:

    I love this and do the same thing. I’ll never ever own a snowblower.

    I also have a push mower. You get the lawn done and a nice workout to boot.

    Now, if I could just find a way to turn car maintenance into a workout…

    • Travis says:

      I have a push mower too! I do have a pretty big lawn, and one day I’ll be the guy with a rider driving with one hand and a beer in the other. But not for a reeeeeaaaaly long time. 🙂

Leave a Comment...


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.