The Emergence of the Snow Blower

By Ross Bainbridge

The first snow blower was built in 1925 to clear snow-covered roads in rural Canada. Designed by farmer and road contractor Arthur Sicard, this first snow blower resembled a wheat combine, with two rotating blades on the front and a long chute that hurled the snow to one side. Variations on this first machine eventually proved it to be a vital implement for all road contractors, airports, and railroads around the world.

In 1951, Toro introduced the domestic push snow blower, cementing the machine’s place as one of the most important back-saving devices ever created. Today, even the smallest, lightest, and least expensive domestic snow blowers can effortlessly clear 300 pounds of snow per minute and throw snow 20 feet away. A strong man with a good shovel would no doubt collapse under such competition. Even a top-of-the-line snow blower can eat snow at the rate of almost two tons per minute along a three-foot path and launch the snow a staggering 45 feet!

No job is too small or too big for a snow blower. From the humblest light powdering to the heaviest blizzards, there’s a machine designed to clear the way. There are two types of gas-powered snow blowers: Single-stage and dual-stage.

Single-stage snow blowers are perfect for clearing flat surfaces such as walkways, paved driveways, and patios. Their rubber-faced augers reach ground level, clearing away every last bit of snow. They’re usually smaller and lighter than dual-stage machines and easier to maneuver in tight spaces.

Single-stage snow blowers rely on one, high-speed auger to both scoop and throw snow. The auger’s curved blades spin parallel to the ground, carving out a section of snow with every rotation and moving the snow towards the machine’s centerline. Snow is then forced up and out through the discharge chute in one continuous motion. Single-stage snow blower technology can’t clear as much snow or throw snow as far as dual-stage machines can. However, dual-stage units can’t fit into confined spaces like single-stage units. Also, dual-stage snow blowers cannot clear snow from flat surfaces as well as a single-stage snow blower can.

Dual-stage snow blowers are best for medium to large jobs where snow is deeper and heavier, and where the terrain might be gravelly or uneven. They employ a slow-rolling auger for scooping up snow and a fast fan, called an impeller, for forcing snow out. The auger often has two types of blades: Serrated blades for breaking up hardened snow and ice, and smooth blades for scooping and lifting the snow into the machine. The auger can often be adjusted up and down, depending on how uneven the terrain is and how close you want to shave it. The auger casing can also come with skid shoes for adjusting total allowed ground clearance.

Separation of snow-handling tasks is what makes dual-stage snow blowers so effective for larger jobs. For the smallest jobs, however, you’ll want something much more maneuverable such as an electric snow blower.

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