The first snowfall always catches us off-guard, and often, off our feet. Sidewalks, driveways and roads are especially slick with collision of temperature changes. Just getting to the hardware store to buy shovels, sand, salt and whatever is risky business.


I ran across this list of tips distributed by the City of Edmondton, in Alberta, Canada. You have to think that they know their stuff, up there, eh?

Best tip I've never heard until now: Microwaving sand in a microwave-safe container and spreading it while it is still warm can make it more effective. It will embed itself in to the ice, creating a gritty top layer.

Rather brilliant.

And a tip for newcomers who may be experiencing their first snowfalls: When shoveling, pile the snow in a place where it will not run across your sidewalk if it melts during the day and pools, only to freeze again overnight. These miniature ice rinks are perilous.

Likewise, make sure your downspouts are aimed away from areas where they may drain where people walk.

A couple of other tips, gleaned from elsewhere, for adding some traction to a slippery walk -- without resorting to sprinkling salt, which has environmental consequences and can also etch surfaces. Granted, sometimes, salt is the best and only solution, but in the interests of using it as infrequently as possible, consider:

Cracked corn is gritty, won't etch a sidewalk and doubles as bird food. In fact, that's where you can procure this, in the feed section of a hardware store or pet center.

Natural clay kitty litter, likewise at the pet store, can provide some traction. Just get the cheap stuff. It's easily swept away when your sidewalk dries off, or will degrade on its own.

Do you have some favorite tips for keeping walks clear and safe? Spill the beans here -- I think we're going to need all the help we can get!