The shovel, as a tool, dates back to the Neolithic and early bronze ages, when archeologists have evidence of discarded ox scapulas being used in Great Britain to move dirt, sand and rocks. While the neolithic folks may not have been using ox scapulas to shovel their driveways, their descendents doubtlessly used shovel-like tools later on to clear paths for walking through snow.
You may think there aren't a lot of decisions to make when buying a snow shovel... you may be wrong! Thanks to modern engineering the lowly snow snovel has come a long way from the heavy straight handled tool Great Grandpa used to use. Here are some of the options for you to consider when buying a snow shovel:
A metal edged shovel is the most durable and the best choice for tearing into ice and hard packed snow. That said, it will also tear into your deck, brick patio and some pavers. Save it for surfaces intended to take some abuse, like driveways and sidewalks. Use a plastic-edged shovel on surfaces which are more easily damaged. The downside to a plastic edged shovel is that the edge will wear out faster and it will need to be replaced sooner.
Modern snow shovel blades come in a variety of styles
Your back will thank you if you leave that heavy steel shovel back in the 20th century and opt for one made of a lighter material, like aluminum or plastic.
The width of the blade is also important - A narrow blade may be needed to clear smaller areas, like steps and walkways. A wide blade picks up more snow at one pass,but too large a blade can tempt you into lifting too much at once for your own good. However a larger blade is fine if you intend to be mainly pushing snow,and just doing minimal lifting.
Old fashioned straight handled shovels are still easy to find, but newer designs feature ergonomicly curved (gently "S" shaped) or bent ( more"Z" shaped) handles. Some of these have a 2nd handle, located towards the blade where the handle bends.
We highly recommend choosing a shovel with an ergonomic design! Studies show they reduce the potential for muscle and back injuries by reducing the need to bend and twist as you shovel.
You can also make that old straight shovel back-friendly by adding an adjustable handle. This gives the shovel a more leverage, making the snow easier to lift.
Straight-handled snow shovels aren't as friendly to your back, but they are inexpensive and take up less space. You might want to throw one in your vehicle before you head out for a weekend skiing or to keep it there if you do a lot of driving in snow country.
Speaking as someone who's taller than average, there's nothing worse than spending an hour or more clearing snow with a shovel that's too short for you! If you're taller, look for a shovel with a long or adjustable handle.