Here's the scoop on shoveling snow

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 12, 2014 - 4:22 PM

Sure, it can be a chore, but shoveling provides a sense of accomplishment, and maybe even a meditative moment.

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No one ever says, “Hey, let’s go snow shoveling!”

There are no cute shoveling jackets, no raucous shoveling contests, no celebrity shovelers.

Yet shoveling is crucial to surviving a Minnesota winter. Before we ski, sled, skate or simply leave the house, we often need to shovel our way to freedom.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she shovels.

A pristinely cleared walk that stops with laser precision at the neighbor’s boundary suggests a rugged individual who expects no less of others.

Sculpted banks of snow reveal a fastidiousness, even artistry, while other folks just fling. Not judging, as long as their sidewalks are cleared.

Minimalists take no more than a single swipe with their shovels, leaving a sidewalk that looks like a finger drawn through frosting.

Then there are the generous souls who shovel for those who can’t, saving them from pedestrians’ disdain, or the reach of the law — albeit law with a small “l.”

Here’s how it works: In many metros, stymied walkers must wait 24 hours after the snow ends before reporting a slacker — time enough for more rugged trekkers to stomp the snow into an urban Antarctica. Once reported, laggards get a chance to do the right thing. Re-inspections are scheduled. The city of Minneapolis’ website cautions that an issue “may take 21 days to resolve.”

In other words, if that first snow isn’t shoveled, all is lost.

Let’s be careful out there

Some residents have moved beyond shovels, buying snowblowers that send great geysers of snow into the air, not unlike how they imagine their money dispersing as they pay for the contraptions.

Still, in many cases, it’s money well spent.

Annually, almost 100 Americans die while shoveling snow, according to a 17-year study published in 2011 in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine. Every shoveling death studied was the result of cardiac distress. An additional 11,500 people annually end up in emergency rooms with shoveling injuries. Curiously, 15 percent of injuries are from being struck by a snow shovel. Most shovelers, however, throw out their backs, hurt themselves when they fall or just generally pull muscles in directions that their muscles find disconcerting.

Sometimes, safety is a matter of using the right shovel.

Teddy Kim, an instructor at TwinTown CrossFit in Minneapolis, wrote a blog post about choosing the right shovel, first noting that a shovel is a Class 1 Lever, “meaning the effort and resistance are on either side of the fulcrum.”

Furthermore: “As Archimedes proved, if the distance between your hands is greater than the distance between your fulcrum hand and the shovel blade, then input force is amplified” — a circumstance that his clients recognize as “suboptimal lifting mechanics.” Tough for an English major to argue with that.

Bottom line: Kim owns a shovel with a curved handle — as would Archimedes.

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