Having arrived in Northern Ontario, the first discovery of the winter, (after the advantage of brandy in coffee), relates to — what else? — snow.
To be precise, its removal by main strength.
Technology has been a blessing in this, as in other arenas of life. But not everyone has access to snow blowers or four wheel drive trucks with hydraulics. The old standby is still the two arms and the shovel.
But clearing snow in N Ontario is not like clearing snow in southern BC. No indeed! Clearing snow here requires determination, persistence, and a measure of luck. For those who have never experienced a N Ontario winter, I offer the following recipe. This recipe is context and task specific. You have a destination that requires the use of your car, and your car, sadly, is not safely enshrined in that wonderful suburban invention we call a “garage.”
1. set aside one snow shovel, one straw broom, some very warm gloves (those made for skiing are rarely adequate), and put on the coffee for later.
2. check the forecast. If the mercury hovers at -25 or lower, and the wind is at 20 km or higher, you might consider hugging the fireplace with a good book, and expressing your regret to your friends.
3. bundle up. For those from warmer climes, note that this process will take upwards of five or six minutes. The key here is layers.
4. lace up the insulated boots. I once wintered an entire season in Kelowna wearing only Nikes. Fond memories.
5. Finally, mount the flapper hat on the head. A toque is rarely adequate here. When you can barely see where you are going, you probably have adequate head gear.
6. locate the driveway and vehicle you intend to unmask. Yes, in a blizzard this can be a daunting task.
Now, you start with the straw broom and whisk the 8 or 10 inches of snow off the car. However, you can only make this your first logical step if you can get close to the car. If you have 12 or 15 inches of snow you might first have to clear an access path. Said path will soon be filled with the snow from the car — but I get ahead of myself.
Continue whisking the snow from the car until clear. If the wind (see step 2 above) is 20 km or higher, and if your car is parked near a sheltering obstacle that acts as a wind-break, this can become quite complicated. In late November I attempted clearing snow from the car with the wind gusting at 40 km, and due to the nearness of a small garage, the turbulence created unpredictable eddies and direction changes. Result, nearly every sweep of the broom created a mini-blizzard that blinded me.
Once the car is clear (a relative term, you will discover in N Ontario), proceed to clear the snow around the vehicle so that passengers can access the doors. This can usually be completed in under ten minutes.
However, this is N Ontario, and this task is not for the feint hearted. By the time you have completed clearing snow from around the vehicle, the wind might have picked up, as well as the snowfall. You can now go back to the first task and clear the snow from the car. I cleared access to the car once in early December only to have a solid inch of snow covering the vehicle by the time I was finished.
By this point you will have discovered if steps 3 to 5 were adequately done. If you can no longer feel your nose or your toes, you might need to indulge in some remediation in the nearest warm building. By the time you have unbundled, downed the hot chocolate with brandy or other anti-freezing chemical, and re-bundled up again for the trip you are about to undertake, you might have to repeat the snow clearing effort — vehicle only this time. When all is said and done, you might have moved up to a cubic yard of snow.
ANd of course, that’s where step 6 comes into play – chiropractors, physiotherapists, and masseurs. Welcome to North Ontario!