Hans and Torin, our Snowblowers

Snowblowers are a necessity in our neighborhood. We have long driveways, chunky plow piles, and snowfall averages similar to the ski areas. Shovels are for cleaning up the leftovers, steps, and decks. Everyone has their favorite snowblower brand and it's rare to let even your most trusted neighbor borrow your winter workhorse. If a neighbor is seen shoveling, the proper protocol is to ask if they are doing it for the workout or if their snowblower is injured. If they accept help, then you snowblow for them, being careful to follow their preferred blowing procedures. With season totals easily nearing 200", you have to blow the snow in the right locations from the beginning.

We've had snowblowers as part of our family since moving to the neighborhood 15 years ago. Our first was a used Toro that a friend in Salt Lake City sold us. It was a strong performer in the valley but suffered with the upgrade to higher elevations. It only made it one winter before we relegated him to the back patio.

Toro #1 at old house, side driveway piles too high for the chute to throw (March 2004)

The next snowblower was a new Toro with more engine and a larger chute. This guy worked hard for three winters in our old house then moved with us to our current house where it got to flex its muscles on a larger driveway for several more years. We had to repair it every other year, replace auger parts when it ate a Sunday newspaper, and at the end stored it under a heat blanket to coax it to start. At the end of our 10th winter in the neighborhood, we said goodbye to the previous two Toros. They went to the Snowblower Shop in hopes that a new owner would give them a few more pull starts. More likely, they became organ donors and live on in other Toros across Summit County.

Toro #2 at old house, roof dumped in front of garage providing an extra challenge (April 2006)

As we entered our 2nd decade of snow maintenance, we could either hire a plow or open our home to another aspiring snowblower. We had seen what the big Honda snowblowers could do in our neighborhood and it was impressive. Hans joined us in 2015. He has all our wishlist characteristics including track wheels, quick start even in the bitter cold, easy-to-move chute with a long high arc, and a strong mental game. Most days, we just hang on for the ride as he shows off his strengths.

Hans in his element 

Torin, the fun little Toro, has been with us the last few winters. After yet another injury from shoveling the back deck, we adopted Torin and gave him a much better home than the big box store. He is the complete opposite of Hans with plastic wheels, minimal throw, manual everything, and can be manipulated with one hand. He also doesn't scratch the back deck and giggles as he bumps into fallen icicles.

Torin taking care of our backs and the back deck

Both Hans and Torin are spoiled with covered housing, individual gas cans filled with recovery fuel, and usually get a massage/brushing off once they finish their laps. After I took the photos, I realize they also have a propane tank and bike maintenance stand close by, coincidence or not, you decide. Unlike their cousin Larry, the lawnmower, they have to perform spontaneously rather than on a weekly schedule. In the last 24 hours, they've had to get after it three times in order to keep up with the storm.

Hans tucked into his garage under the stairs

Torin sheltered under the deck tucked near the barbecue

They both make themselves heard across the neighborhood, likely telling their friends that they are working hard, similar to a weightlifter in the gym grunting louder than necessary to let others know how strong they are. I wish I could wear my ear protection muffs in the gym like I do with the boys.

They have spa day in May when their fuel is treated, then they just chill for five months until the next winter season arrives. They can't go into full hibernation since they like to chat with their summer cousins Larry and Wendy, the leaf blower. They brag about how important they are in comparison, getting the snow out of the way so we can leave or enter the garage. The grass and leaves can be left alone without any serious backlash, but you can't leave the snow piles.

Then there are the war stories about the big storms and those times we go on vacation and make them work through the build-up, usually at a late hour. For us humans, the best part of coming home from vacation is pulling up and seeing that a neighbor stopped by with their snowblower. Hans is most uncomfortable when that happens. He prefers being the snowblower that helps out others and getting that bonus workout. Torin could care less, he's just happy to see us and get to play in the snow.

Another filled driveway (or 2) awaits...