Attachments of Winter: Your Skid Steer Was Made for Snow Removal
Fall is finally here: You’ve just finished that overseeding project, you’ll be tilling the garden one last time before winter sets in and your mowing is winding down. Time to winterize your skid steer and mothball it for five months, right? Heck no. Your skid steer was made for snow removal. Here’s what you need and what you need to know.
There are a variety of attachments available for snow removal. Each does the job a little bit differently, but all of them turn your skid steer into an efficient tool for combating Old Man Winter. Choosing the right piece of equipment depends a lot on preference and task. Before we get started, a word of caution: It cannot be stated strongly enough that performing snow removal tasks is ripe with opportunities to hit unseen objects. Snow covers everything, hiding obstacles that pose dangers to both operators and equipment. If you are removing snow at a new location that you are not familiar with, explore the area thoroughly before beginning. If possible, examine the area prior to snowfall and mark obstacles that will create problems later.
The simplest and most economical tool for snow removal is a snow pusher. A snow pusher is essentially a large box that captures the snow as you push forward. It offers a much larger capacity than the skid steer bucket and can be ordered with a steel or rubber composite scraper edge on the bottom of the moldboard. The rubber edges on snow pushers are able to flex and pass over obstructions under most conditions and offer protection to the asphalt or concrete below.
Because of the volume of snow that a pusher can move, they make quick work of parking lots and other large, open areas. Snow pushers do not windrow snow like traditional angled blades do — they push straight forward — and pile snow at a chosen location. Widths vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but small pushers start at about 4 ft up to large commercial pushers that can be 30-ft wide or wider; obviously, wide pushers are for large high-horsepower skid steers. Skid steer models are generally going to be in the 6- to 8-ft range with moldboards from 18 to 30 in. high.
Optional equipment that make snow pushers more versatile include pull-back blades that allow you to rotate the box 90 degrees and rake snow away from garage doors or buildings. Abrasion-resistant skid shoes are available from some manufacturers as well as side markers to help locate the corners of the pusher in deep snow. Skid steer pushers can start at $2,300 and go up to $4,800 depending on size and options.
Front- and rear-mount blades have been a staple of snow removal for decades. They are simple, easy-to-use and most are versatile enough to serve a dual purpose in the months when snow is not an issue. Blades come in a variety of sizes. Blade styles include a fixed blade, angling blade, trip blade, trip-edge blade or a six-way blade.
Optional equipment that make snow pushers more versatile include pull-back blades that allow you to rotate the box 90 degrees and rake snow away from garage doors or buildings.
Front blades come in varieties with moldboards or edges that trip, angling options, or models that transform into V-blades, also called six-way blades. A quality front-mount blade with hydraulic capabilities can start at around $3,400 and go up from there.
The ultimate in skid steer snow removal is a snow blower. Skid steer snow blowers work much the same way a two-stage, walk-behind snow blower works. Gearboxes driven by the skid steer hydraulics deliver power to the auger and impeller. The augers direct snow to the center of the blower and into the impeller. The impeller throws the snow upward through a chute. Snow blowers can have manual, hydraulic or electric chute rotation, allowing the operator to direct snow to a desired location. Adjustable deflectors on the chute also aid in directing the snow. Snow blowers allow operators to move snow quickly in one pass. Options like cutting edges and skid shoes allow users to outfit their blowers for the task at hand. Three-point snow blowers can start at $5,500 and go up to as much as $12,500.
No matter what you pick to remove snow, your skid steer will make the task easier. Some simple reminders for snow removal: Inspect the area, dress appropriately and perform recommended maintenance on both your implement and your skid steer. Snow removal can be hard on your equipment, especially if you are also using a de-icer.
The corrosive properties of de-icers mean that it’s imperative that you properly clean and lubricate the exposed contact points. Manufacturers offer a suggested maintenance schedule in their operator’s manuals. They are meant to be followed, but use in snow may require more frequent maintenance. Clean your equipment after every use. If you are using an implement with a gearbox, make sure you check oil in the gearboxes prior to use, grease drive-lines and pivot points before and after use, replace wear items like skid shoes when worn and touch up the paint to prevent rust. With proper care, your snow tools will last for years to come.