Utah Snow Removal... The History

Photo by Random Moments Photography by Sandi Graham-McWade/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Random Moments Photography by Sandi Graham-McWade/iStock / Getty Images

Although Utah is not located in the “Snowbelt” of the US, we receive our fair share of snow most years - we didn’t get our slogan “Greatest Snow on Earth” for nothing.   

As Utahns we like to believe we are experts when it comes to snow, and justifiably so.  When we’re not in Utah and proudly mention we are from the Beehive state, snow (and whether you snowboard or ski) is typically one of two things that immediately comes up.  However, all of our expertise regarding snow, or more specifically the removal of it, comes from back East -- from a time before Utah was even, well… Utah.  

The history of snow removal takes us all the way back to the first settlers of the new world.  To cities and towns full of people who did a majority of their travel by foot, instead of by Prius, Tesla, or the obvious mode of transportation for any respectable adult these days... hover-board (I wish!).  

Not long after these individuals first arrived, they were confronted with massive blizzards that resulted at times in 4 feet of snow mixed with extreme winds.  This large amount of snowfall got in the way of transportation and made it very difficult for them to continue to keep their homes warm.

Inevitably, evolving as humans do, Snow Removal Version 1.0 was adopted.  

This early form of snow removal included pimping out horse drawn carriages with ski-like runners, replacing their typical wooden wheels for post storm travel.  However, with little city involvement in keeping road conditions up to par for these fancy new carriages, it was up to residents to pack and flatten snow.  This worked, but obviously wasn’t sustainable as population grew.

As urban development brought with it streets, and expanded commerce, wintertime blizzards began to present more critical problems to big cities that relied on frequent deliveries of food and supplies. Thus, Snow Removal Version 2.0 began to take form.  

The first mentions of snowplow use was recorded in Milwaukee, WI in 1862.  Along with the invention of the snowplow, came municipal responsibility in the snow removal efforts.  According to the National Snow & Ice Data Center, several cities responded by hiring horse-drawn carts and shovelers to work in conjunction with the plows, hauling away the plowed snow and dumping it into rivers.  This process was a bit more sustainable, but still needed some fine-tuning -- make way for Snow Removal Version 2.5.

The Blizzard of 1888 was the event that changed the snow removal game for good.  After people were buried in their homes for up to a week, a valuable lesson was learned about preparation - there needed to be some.  As a result of this storm, more snow plows were hired, each one receiving an assigned route.  Additionally, removal became a continuous process of preparation and maintenance, rather than a reactionary service that waited until the end of the storm to begin the cleanup process.

It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that snow removal began to take place in the west, in cities such as Denver, Seattle, and of course the best one… SLC.  This was also during the time that cars began to replace carriages on the roads, turning snow removal into what it is today - Snow Removal Version 3.0 (honestly, there were a lot more iterations than 3 but for purposes of this post, let’s just pretend).  

With cars, came the need for dry, safe streets - not just alley ways and main roads. In 1913, the first motorized dump truck came into the picture.  Resulting in many cities rushing to motorize their snow removal fleets.  Additionally, during this time, haul-off and de-icing techniques began to evolve and become more sophisticated.

We’ve seen snow removal continue to evolve with the help of technology, including the use of satellites to help better predict storm patterns.  As the industry continues to grow, the most important lesson we can learn from those before us is the importance of preparation.  

Preparation not only ensures that we as snow removal companies are able to respond in a timely manner when the snow begins to fall, but it also gives all of us (homeowners, property managers, and citizens of large communities) peace of mind that when the time comes, we’re ready to manage and endure the storm safely.