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Saturday, October 13, 2012
Updated: November 26, 6:02 PM ET
How to: Shovel out your car

By Dana Allen

The trusty No. 12 shovel would never let this happen to you.
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I moved to Crested Butte, Colo., two days after Thanksgiving in 2008, abandoning a retail job at an outdoor shop in Vermont, packing up my trusty Toyota pickup, and driving out for the unknown, like so many other first-time Western ski bums. Arriving to bare ground in Colorado was not part of the plan, but I kept telling myself that it would be fine -- it doesn't rain in February at 9,000 feet, right? That winter, at least, I was right. Two days later, my truck was buried hood-deep, the result of a six-foot storm that turned Crested Butte from zero to hero in less than 48 hours. And it didn't stop all winter. Light and fluffy, heavy and wet, plow-crud, road-scrapings, ice chunks -- I shoveled and moved it all. Here's how you can too.

First off, choose the right shovel. And the right shovel is a No. 12 Grain Scoop. They come in a variety of flavors, so listen up. The first daunting choice you have is blade material -- plastic or metal? Snow doesn't stick to plastic very well, so for flinging snow, it's ideal.

If you are thinking to yourself, 'But why wouldn't I use one of those long-handled scraper-brush combos to do that?' then you might not be ready for a No. 12. When the snow on your car is four feet deep, those things are useless. Get a scoop. You'll probably also want a metal-bladed No. 12. Snow will stick to it and it will definitely scratch up your paint job, but it will get you out of a jam.

Now think about your handle. The No. 12 is infinitely configurable with long or short, fiberglass or wood handles, no grips, padded grips, D-grips ... the list goes on. Just remember these basics at the hardware store and you'll be fine: Long handles will fling snow farther. Short handles are good for precision work and smaller people. A straight, no-grip shaft is nice if you don't mind holding on a little tighter and appreciate the freedom to rotate the shovel any direction. A D-grip is good if you're doing a lot of chipping and like that extra support.

Introducing your dream shovel, the No. 12 Grain Scoop.

Don't be afraid to bribe the plow guy. Various things work. If you want to keep it legal, baked goods or Crown Royal work well.

Just like you don't want the wrong skis for a powder day, you don't want the wrong shovel for a heavy, wet storm. So get a quiver of shovels. It doesn't cost much and it'll ensure that you're not stuck digging out your car while everyone else is getting first tracks.

It's a poor carpenter who blames his tools. In many ways, shoveling technique is far more important than the shovel used. The first technique to master is the fling -- using a long-handled shovel, place one hand mid-shaft, one hand on the end, load it up, and let 'er rip, levering the shovel off the mid-thigh to avoid straining your back and arms. A four-foot blade should get you at least 20 feet.

Good chipping technique is paramount. Grab that D-grip shovel and step up to the plow-crud snowbank. Now imagine that you're Buffy and this is your vampire. Firmly grasp the handle with one hand. With the other hand holding the handle facing toward you, stab assertively downward and drive that shovel through to the heart of the frosty bank. Lever back toward yourself to break it up into chunks. Use the fling to get rid of the debris.

Snowblowers are for tourists. If you want to be accepted your first season, don't get one. Prove yourself.

Everyone loves the guy with a snowblower, so make friends with him (but remember, he's already proven himself).