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automatic1stdown


Joined: Oct 30, 2007
Points: 8

Snowblower for a really steep driveway
Original Message   Oct 30, 2007 2:40 pm
I was hoping to get some advice on snowblowers for a really steep paved driveway.  We just moved into a new home that has a 200' driveway that I anticipate will be a PITA to snowblow this winter.  The steepest part is at the top 1/4 and I have to use a walkbehind mower on the lawn because my Husqavarna lawn tractor can't make it up the incline.  Just walking up the driveway when completely dry is a chore.

My first thought was to buy a track-drive snowblower, but these seem to be a rarity in today's market for some reason.  It looks like Honda and Ariens make track-drive snowblowers, but they're really pricey (starts at $2k and up!).  Is it safe to use a wheel-drive snowblower on my steep driveway?  There are some wheel-drive models that have peaked my interest, but I'm worried the tires will slip.  My biggest fear is the wheels will slip and the snowblower will slide backward into me!  I suppose I could use tire chains, but won't that damage the pavement and negate any cost savings of a wheel-drive over a track-drive?

Thanks in advance

Replies: 1 - 10 of 10View as Outline
nibbler


Joined: Mar 5, 2004
Points: 751

Re: Snowblower for a really steep driveway
Reply #1   Oct 31, 2007 7:07 am
Chains are cheap compared to the cost of a track. They also don't give you as much traction.

One other thing to look into is that I have seen some tour wheel snowblowers mentioned here a couple of time.

Hondas seem to be naturally pricey but have a very good reputation.

The new Ariens tracked line is designed for professional use and is hence a bit more robust than the consumer versions. They are new this year and hence have no reputation. Ariens is considered quite good as a manufacturer.

Given your description of the driveway I'd go with a tracked unit. If you amortize the cost over 10-20 years then its not that bad.

The other thing to consider is how are you going to get traction if the steep part is icy. If worst comes to worst you can get crampons, spike which strap on to your boots, there are lesser cheaper spiky things but I can attest from personal experience that crampons will keep you from sliding on a 45 degree ice slope. Just don't fall or you will slide.
automatic1stdown


Joined: Oct 30, 2007
Points: 8

Re: Snowblower for a really steep driveway
Reply #2   Oct 31, 2007 1:18 pm
nibbler wrote:
Chains are cheap compared to the cost of a track. They also don't give you as much traction.

One other thing to look into is that I have seen some tour wheel snowblowers mentioned here a couple of time.

Hondas seem to be naturally pricey but have a very good reputation.

The new Ariens tracked line is designed for professional use and is hence a bit more robust than the consumer versions. They are new this year and hence have no reputation. Ariens is considered quite good as a manufacturer.

Given your description of the driveway I'd go with a tracked unit. If you amortize the cost over 10-20 years then its not that bad.

The other thing to consider is how are you going to get traction if the steep part is icy. If worst comes to worst you can get crampons, spike which strap on to your boots, there are lesser cheaper spiky things but I can attest from personal experience that crampons will keep you from sliding on a 45 degree ice slope. Just don't fall or you will slide.



Yeah, the track system definitely seems like it'll be superior to wheels w/ chains.  The contact patch of a tire is really tiny compared to the track.  Other than chains, is it possible to get snowblower tires with studs?

One possibility that I might explore is buying a wheel-drive snowblower and using lots of sand on the hill for traction.  I would first blow a path down the driveway and leave it idle at the bottom.  I would then use a fertilizer spreader to lay down some sand on the new path.  This would give a grippy surface to get the snowblower back up the hill for the next run down the driveway.  The downside is that this may double my time outside blowing the driveway.

By four wheel snowblower, do you mean a 4WD lawn tractor with a snowblower attachment on the front?  My dream would be to buy a Honda tractor from the mid-90's that had 4-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-steering.  I wish Honda still made stuff like that!

The price premium on Honda equipment doesn't phase me too much.  I have a Honda Harmony lawn mower and a Honda 4 cycle line trimmer.  Both have been well worth the money and are extremely well built.  I hesistate a bit spending well over $2k on a snowblower though because it may only be used 4-5 times a year.  Despite Minnesota's reputation for blizzard conditions, the past 3 winters have been very mild with little snow to speak of.  Heck, it's still 60 degrees out with November right around the corner.

Thanks for the tip on the crampons.  I will definitely have to ask for those from Santa this Xmas.

kona9


Joined: Oct 31, 2007
Points: 6

Re: Snowblower for a really steep driveway
Reply #3   Oct 31, 2007 2:31 pm
Maybe you would be better served by two snowblowers, one medium sized 2-stage and one single stage.  You could use the single stage whenever you get 6-8" or less.  When you get more snow, pull out your medium sized two stage and do the less steep part of your drive and use the single for the real steep part.  The single stage blowers really pull you along and you don't have to worry about sliding down with a large heavy machine.  Just a thought as this might be more convenient overall and be less expensive than buying a $2k+ Honda track drive to use for 1 or 2 times a year you get a major dump.  I wouldn't want to use a real large blower if there is only a few inches of snow on the ground. 
This message was modified Oct 31, 2007 by kona9
nibbler


Joined: Mar 5, 2004
Points: 751

Re: Snowblower for a really steep driveway
Reply #4   Nov 1, 2007 8:42 am
Four Wheel Snow Blower, something like this




Sort of half way to a tracked unit. Something else that I just remembered. Two wheel units adjust the auger housing height by fiddling with skids on the side of the housing. This is due to the entire unit rotating forward and backward around the axle. Four wheel and tracked units typically have some sort of articulation to raise and lower the housing since the traction system is is more stable ( at least four points of contact). If you look at the picture you can see the front skids are higher than the road surface. I don't know how significant this is but I remember the Honda has a pretty sophisticated system to adjust the auger housing height.

You can get crampons in stores that cater to "serious" hikers and climbers. Try doing some research on sites that cater to mountain climbers, they are used in ice climbing. Here is some info.

As far as sanding is concerned if you have both sides of your traction system locked then it shouldn't be too hard to go up the slope with one side of the traction system on the sanded area and the other side going through fresh  snow, you might not get a full swath but 2/3 to 3/4 is much better than 0.

With enough money I'm sure you can get studded tires but chains would be a better option since they can be taken off and probably won't chew up the road surface as much. From the sounds of things its not snow that will give you grief but ice
krislu


Location: Long Island, NY
Joined: Dec 27, 2004
Points: 148

Re: Snowblower for a really steep driveway
Reply #5   Nov 1, 2007 7:06 pm
Let me give you a couple of suggestions you can use with whatever machine you pick. 1 When you know a storm is coming the night or day before put ice melt down on the driveway or at least at the steepest part. 2 Park your car/cars on the steepest part of the driveway so snow can't accumulate on that part but leave yourself room at the top so you can clear and then drive your car into the cleared area. As for which machine, remember a snowblower should be a once in a lifetime buy that if taken care of you could put in your will. If I were in your shoes I would try out the new Ariens track drive and be the first on the net to give a review. - Kris

           
automatic1stdown


Joined: Oct 30, 2007
Points: 8

Re: Snowblower for a really steep driveway
Reply #6   Nov 3, 2007 3:34 pm
Thanks for the tips guys.

I priced out a pair of crampons online.  Yikes!  Those things are expensive.  Are they made by Honda?

I visited 4 local dealers this morning and chatted with the salesmen.  I have ruled out getting a Honda track-drive blower as the dealer (NorthernTool) did not impress me at all.  Honda no longer allows them to carry the 2-Stage models and the salesperson sure wasn't trying to sell them.  He said it would be a special order and I'd have to pay shipping.  I said "No Thanks" and left.

I went by 2 Ariens dealers and was impressed by both.  I was surprised they both had a new track-drive model (9526DLET) on the showroom floor to play with.  It looked pretty wicked, but both salesmen were not trying to sell it at all.  They said turning it would be a big pain and I'd be better served with a wheel-drive model.  One salesman actually demonstrated how difficult it is by lifting the backend up and pivot it on the front auger housing.  I can just see myself throwing my back out in no time. 

I guess I'll be sticking with a wheel-drive model and have narrowed down my choices to the Ariens 1027LE, 1130DLE, and 9526DLE Pro.  For whatever reason, they kept pushing the Deluxe models instead of the Pro and said the only advantage the Pro had was the cast-iron gear case.  Based on all the awesome information you guys post on this forum, I know this is certainly not true.  At any rate, I'm pretty set on getting a 9526DLE Pro for $1629 from the dealer as they seem comparable to a Honda quality wise.

jubol


Location: Dover, De
Joined: Oct 3, 2003
Points: 1558

Re: Snowblower for a really steep driveway
Reply #7   Nov 3, 2007 4:11 pm
Auto

Track drives are just as easy to turn as wheeled blowers,when running,

when not ,put it on a $20.0 dolly!

Get the track drive for your driveway. You will never regret it!!!!

The friends of mine who have tracked blowers just love them!!!

Very easy to use! 

Also Ariens dealers have no experience with the new Ariens Track Drive units, brand new this year!!!! 

So the Ariens salesman you talked to did not know what he was talking about ! ! ! ! ! ! 

                                                                Fred

This message was modified Nov 3, 2007 by jubol


Husqvarna STE927(11.5HP) snowblower,  MTD Pro Series 18/42 Lawnmower, MTD 6.5 HP  Self Prop Lawn Mower,  Weedeater 1500 Blower, Web Gensis  2000 
newjerseybt


You want it done right?...You better learn how to do it yourself!

Ariens 1128DLE
Ariens 8526LE
Honda HRC216
Bosch 3221L
Craftsman DYT4000
Stihl FS90R


Location: Honesdale, PA
Joined: Dec 19, 2004
Points: 171

Re: Snowblower for a really steep driveway
Reply #8   Nov 5, 2007 5:31 pm
auto1stdown:

My driveway is fairly long but not as steep as yours but I found it much easier to take just 1/2 an intake mouth full of snow or less going up hill. I also threw a 20 pound bag of cat litter on top of the intake chute which helped traction when cutting through the packed 3 foot EOD from the city plow. It also helps keep the nose from climbing.
nibbler


Joined: Mar 5, 2004
Points: 751

Re: Snowblower for a really steep driveway
Reply #9   Nov 6, 2007 8:41 am
Crampons are used by people who have fun by climbing up walls of ice by sticking the toe picks in and  hiking around on glaciers that may be on 45° or greater slopes. Yes they are kind of expensive on a per kg ( lb) basis. On the basis of what happens if you fail they are real inexpensive. You can see the same type of difference in so called snap links at the corner variety and carabiners at a climbing store. The first is designed to hold keys the other will hold you and a full backpack.

Snowman mentioned in a previous thread that the new Ariens tracked units had a differential that was designed specifically for the tracked units. I suspect that you need to have the engine going and the traction system engaged before you can judge how hard it is to turn. The idea of a dolley for non-powered movement is something I wish I had remembered.
automatic1stdown


Joined: Oct 30, 2007
Points: 8

Re: Snowblower for a really steep driveway
Reply #10   Nov 6, 2007 10:16 am
Just to provide some closure to this thread I wanted to post that I purchased a 2007 model 9526DLE Pro yesterday at an Ariens dealer.  Here are the reasons why I choose the 9526DLE over the 9526DLET (Track version)

  • $500 premium to get basically the same machine spec-wise.  The 9526DLET will undoubtably have more traction and be quieter (B&S Intek), but that's not worth it to me.  That's a pretty steep price increase considering Honda charges only $100 to get a track-drive over a wheel-drive.
  • Dealer has not sold any yet.
  • Dealer has not serviced one before.
  • Track-drive seems more complicated and prone to more problems over the long haul.
  • Brand-new track design will probably take a few years to get the bugs worked out.
  • Difficult to turn.  There is no way my wife could operate a 9526DLET if I was out of town on business.

I am sure the 9526DLET is a fine machine, but it didn't seem like a good pick right now.  Thanks again guys for the help.

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