Articles Regarding Snow Removal

Your Role In The Snow Removal Partnership

What Elements Does:

When we receive 3 to 4 inches of snow or more from a storm we clear your driveway from the street to a safe distance from your snow poles, garbage can enclosure, vehicles in your driveway and home. We try to clear to within about  6” to 12” from your snow poles and about 12” to 18” from your vehicles, home or other obstacles. Throughout the season, we will clear about 95 to 98% of all snow that falls on your driveway.

What You Need To Do:

  • Clear snow from your driveway when we receive less than 3 to 4 inches;
  • Clear the snow in front of your garbage can enclosure to allow the trash collection service to pick up your garbage;
  • Clear the snow at your garage door that we can’t clear;
  • Clear the snow from your walkway and entry;
  • Address any ice buildup on your driveway that we can’t scrape off;
  • At times you will need to deal with the berm created when the Town clears the roads.

Here are some of the tools and services that we recommend to help you deal with good ol’ Mother Nature:

  • A good grain scoop-type shovel for lifting and moving snow. I like the Tuffy shovel from Poly Pro Tools because it is a one piece, unbreakable design;
  • A good pusher shovel. The best one that I’ve used is the PolarTuff from Yo-Ho Quality Tools;
  • A snowblower. Honda is the gold standard in snowblowers but less expensive models are available locally at both Sears and Mountain Hardware. Sears sells a Husquvarna snowblower for $849;
  • Hire a snow shoveling service or property management company to clear these areas if you are unable.

Snow removal is a partnership between Elements, the Town of Truckee and you. We all have an important role to play. Working together we can effectively manage snow, even in the biggest winters.

Factors That Drive Our Snow Removal Start Time

 

We take our responsibility to provide you with the best winter home access seriously. When making our decision to commence snow removal operations we take the following factors into consideration:

  • How to provide the best access given snowfall forecast;
  • How to keep our operators and equipment safe;
  • How to limit our liability and reduce our risk exposure.

We only have one crew of snow removal operators. We do not operate a separate day and a night shift. Among the other factors listed below, one of the considerations we take into account is how to maximize our snow clearing benefit given the storm forecast. For example, it may not be optimal to start clearing at 3 inches of snow when we can wait a few hours and simultaneously clear 6 inches or more of snow and Town berms.

 

Clearing driveways is hazardous. Our job requires each of our equipment operators to back into traffic hundreds of times each day, often in icy, low visibility conditions. Every one of our vehicle collisions occur during high traffic periods. Of the four collisions we were involved in during the ‘18/’19 winter all four occurred after 7:00 am. For the safety of our operators, and whenever possible, we prefer to conduct our snow clearing operations du

ring the middle of the night when vehicle traffic is limited.

 

Not only are collisions dangerous, they’re also expensive. If we cause an accident we either pay out-of-pocket for minor vehicle damage or we submit the claim to our insurance carrier if a damage is significant. Either way, our costs increase when we’re involved in vehicle accidents. One of the ways that we try to limit our costs and reduce our overhead is to limit our risk of accident exposure by avoiding work during the busiest and most hazardous times of the day.

 

Additional Info: Factors That Impact Snow Removal Timing

 

On The Sunny Side Of The Street

 

You’ve probably recognized this already at your mountain home, but the side of the street that your house is on can make a big difference in the amount of snow that builds up on your driveway.

 

North facing driveways or driveways in shady areas with limited sun exposure will keep the snow and ice a lot longer than driveways that naturally receive sun exposure. Even short amounts of sun exposure on an asphalt surface will help to warm it and melt accumulated snow and ice.

 

Homeowners on the cold side of the street will need to apply ice melt and scrape ice and snow off of their driveway to mitigate ice buildup. Utility sand can also be spread on icy driveways to increase traction and help aid in the absorption of radiant heat from the sun.

10 Tips To Improve Your Guests’ Winter Success

 

By sharing the following information with your guests and tenants you may help them to better enjoy their winter mountain experience:

 

  1. Always check the weather forecast and road conditions before you travel. Be prepared to sit tight and adjust your plans if travel looks hazardous.
  2. Rent a 4×4 or all-wheel drive car when you come to the Sierra in the winter. This one thing will make your stay more enjoyable and less stressful.
  3. Carry tire chains, a shovel, blankets, snacks and water in case you’re stuck on the highway in a storm.
  4. Park your car in the garage if possible. If not, pull your car into your driveway as far as possible and park to one side or the other. This will allow your snow removal company to clear as much of your driveway as possible.
  5. You may have to shovel to get your car into or out of your driveway or garage. While we provide the bulk of the snow removal, shoveling is just a fact of life in the winter.
  6. All vehicles must be parked in your driveway. Any vehicle parked on the road during the winter will be towed.
  7. Leave an interior light on to let your snow removal company know that your house is occupied. This helps to ensure that your driveway is cleared as early and as frequently as possible.
  8. Go grocery shopping first. Make sure that you have food to sustain you and your family if you become snowbound.
  9. Keep firewood, toys, sleds, dog tethers, garden hoses, lumber and any other obstacles out of your driveway when it is snowing. These items will damage snow removal equipment, delay your service and could be costly to you.
  10. Daily start times for driveway snow removal are dictated by snowfall accumulation. Because storms are unpredictable the timing of your driveway clearing may vary from day to day.

Winter Tires Make Driving In The Snow Safer

Consumer Reports tests consistently show that winter tires deliver better grip to start in snow and stop on icy surfaces. They offer an extra margin of safety and performance over all-season and all-terrain tires.

If you have to drive in snowy conditions, winter tires out-perform most all-season and all-terrain tires with better stopping and starting ability. They have a more aggressive tread pattern and are made from a softer rubber compound. The softer compound allows the tread to squash around the snow, compact it, and then toss it out as the tire rotates. They are good choices for all cars, whether front, rear, or all-wheel drive.

Winter tires can easily be identified by a mountain and snowflake symbol on the sidewall. Studless winter/snow tires typically have many slits in the tread acting as biting edges and a tread compound that stays pliable in cold temperatures. By contrast, all-terrain tires can harden in freezing temperatures, which affects performance on icy and snowy roads.

Some winter tire models can be studded for extra grip in icy conditions, though they can be noisy and sometimes leave scratch marks in driveways. For the added performance in extreme weather, winter grip comes with concessions of shorter treadwear and compromise of handling and grip on cleared roads.

10 Tips To Improve Your Guests’ Winter Success

 

By sharing the following information with your guests and tenants you may help them to better enjoy their winter mountain experience:

 

  1. Always check the weather forecast and road conditions before you travel. Be prepared to sit tight and adjust your plans if travel looks hazardous.
  2. Rent a 4×4 or all-wheel drive car when you come to the Sierra in the winter. This one thing will make your stay more enjoyable and less stressful.
  3. Carry tire chains, a shovel, blankets, snacks and water in case you’re stuck on the highway in a storm.
  4. Park your car in the garage if possible. If not, pull your car into your driveway as far as possible and park to one side or the other. This will allow your snow removal company to clear as much of your driveway as possible.
  5. You may have to shovel to get your car into or out of your driveway or garage. While we provide the bulk of the snow removal, shoveling is just a fact of life in the winter.
  6. All vehicles must be parked in your driveway. Any vehicle parked on the road during the winter will be towed.
  7. Leave an interior light on to let your snow removal company know that your house is occupied. This helps to ensure that your driveway is cleared as early and as frequently as possible.
  8. Go grocery shopping first. Make sure that you have food to sustain you and your family if you become snowbound.
  9. Keep firewood, toys, sleds, dog tethers, garden hoses, lumber and any other obstacles out of your driveway when it is snowing. These items will damage snow removal equipment, delay your service and could be costly to you.
  10. Daily start times for driveway snow removal are dictated by snowfall accumulation. Because storms are unpredictable the timing of your driveway clearing may vary from day to day.

Winter Tires Make Driving In The Snow Safer

Consumer Reports tests consistently show that winter tires deliver better grip to start in snow and stop on icy surfaces. They offer an extra margin of safety and performance over all-season and all-terrain tires.

If you have to drive in snowy conditions, winter tires out-perform most all-season and all-terrain tires with better stopping and starting ability. They have a more aggressive tread pattern and are made from a softer rubber compound. The softer compound allows the tread to squash around the snow, compact it, and then toss it out as the tire rotates. They are good choices for all cars, whether front, rear, or all-wheel drive.

Winter tires can easily be identified by a mountain and snowflake symbol on the sidewall. Studless winter/snow tires typically have many slits in the tread acting as biting edges and a tread compound that stays pliable in cold temperatures. By contrast, all-terrain tires can harden in freezing temperatures, which affects performance on icy and snowy roads.

Some winter tire models can be studded for extra grip in icy conditions, though they can be noisy and sometimes leave scratch marks in driveways. For the added performance in extreme weather, winter grip comes with concessions of shorter treadwear and compromise of handling and grip on cleared roads.

Debris In Driveways May Cost Your More Than Just Delays

When we suck up an item that was left in the driveway and covered with snow it impacts our ability to deliver timely snow removal service to our paying clients. Almost every snow clearing shift we have to cut firewood, floor mats, shovels, sleds, garden hose, etc from our tractors.

We lose at least an hour of snow clearing productivity each time this happens. The best case scenario is that we can perform an in-field fix and get the tractor back on its route within the hour. The worst case is that a part breaks in the snowblower, it takes us over an hour to get another tractor back on route, and it costs thousands of dollars in parts and labor to repair.

Accidents happen. We realize that this is life in snow removal with rotary snowblowers. But if this trend continues to increase we may have to start charging homeowners for our time and parts to fix our equipment. Our preference is to ask you to be diligent about educating your guests, family members and short term rental tenants on the importance of keeping the driveway clear of foreign debris for the sake of timely, reliable snow removal.

How To Tell If Your Driveway Was Cleared

Because snow removal companies work during the early morning hours homeowners often do not hear the equipment clearing their driveways. When it continues to snow many people mistakenly assume that we did not clear their driveway if it has snow in it.

A good way to determine if your driveway has been cleared on days when it snows continuously is to compare the amount of snow on your deck (or other area that represents the amount of snow from the current storm) to the amount of snow on your driveway. If there is considerably more snow on your deck (or other area) than there is in your driveway, you can assume that your driveway was cleared and that new snow has accumulated since it was cleared.

Another way to determine if your driveway was cleared is to look at the snow immediately in front of the garage door. Snow removal equipment can clear to within about 12 to 18 inches from your garage door. If the snow level is higher immediately in front of your garage door than it is in the balance of the driveway it has been cleared.

Importance Of Visible House Numbers

Consider auditing the visibility of your home’s 5 digit street numbers. If you have a difficult time seeing these numbers then emergency services like the Fire Department and Police Department, your snow removal provider and your guests will also have a tough time locating your home.

Tahoe Donner’s Architectural Rules mandate that house numbers must be at least 4 inches tall and mounted on your house or garage. Tahoe Donner also allows for house numbers to be posted on your garbage can enclosure. While not specified in the Architectural Rules house numbers that are constructed of shiny metals like polished stainless steel are prohibited while brushed metal finishes are allowed. Tahoe Donner does not allow illuminated house numbers.

The Truckee Fire Protection District recommends that homes have reflective numbers that are at least four inches tall and that contrast with the background. Visible house numbers will help emergency services locate your home, possibly saving precious seconds or minutes during an emergency.

For optimal visibility consider installing house numbers that are at least 6 inches tall and that contrast with the color of the background that they are mounted on. Install your house numbers on the easiest place to see them from the street, whether this be above your garage door, on the beam supporting your front deck or on the closest part of your house to the street. Consider also installing reflective numbers on your garbage can enclosure.

Webcams Don’t Always Paint An Accurate Picture

Webcams are great for home security. They’re not so great at telling how deep the snow is in your driveway or how close your snow removal operator came to your garage door.

We’ve experienced a two to three-fold increase in the number of snow removal-related inquiries originating from remote webcam viewing this season compared to last year. As we follow up on these inquiries we’re finding that over half of these inquiries are the result of a misleading perspective created by the camera’s wide viewing angle.

We take all inquiries seriously and do our best to follow up with each one. However, please consider that web cams often provide a misleading perspective and that there is no substitute for in-person observation to formulate a complete picture of your home’s snow clearing performance.

Leave An Interior Light On To Help Us Identify That You’re Home

We clear every home everyday we run our snow removal operations. But you can help us make sure that we clear your driveway as early as possible if you help us identify that you’re at your Tahoe Donner home.

On heavy snow days the speed at which we can clear each driveway slows down. On these days our Operations Manager will often instruct our snow removal operators to skip over homes that don’t show any sign of life in order to clear occupied homes as early as possible. This allows us to provide access to people who are at their Tahoe Donner home as early as possible.

The best way to help us determine if your home is occupied is for you to leave an interior light on that is visible from the front of your house. In situations when we skip ahead to occupied homes our snow removal operators are taught to look for signs of occupancy, which include visible lights, cars parked in driveways, tire tracks into the garage, snow shoveled from in front of the garage door and any changes from their previous clearing experiences.

How The Success Of AirBNB & VRBO Affects Your Snow Removal

Since 2009 the number of vacation rentals managed by their owners (think AirBnB, VRBO and HomeAway) has quadrupled in the Truckee area. Many homeowners realize that they can make more money renting their homes as short-term vacation rentals than they could if they rented on a long-term basis.

The success of the short-term rental market means that a lot of rental houses that were previously available to local workforce employees are no longer available. This then becomes a classic case of supply and demand in the local housing market: less long-term housing supply means that prices for these scarce units increase for local workforce employees.

This affects your Tahoe Donner snow removal in two ways. First, the cost of living continues to climb for the local workforce. Employers, like Elements, are forced to pay employees a wage that allows them to live in an area with an increasing cost of living. We then have to pass along our increased labor costs to you, our client, in order to retain good employees.

Second, many local workforce employees have relocated to the Reno area because they can’t find or afford housing in the Truckee area. Employees who commute to work from Reno are subject to the highway road conditions, which can close at a moment’s notice due to inclement weather and/or vehicle accidents. When roads close, like they often did during the ‘16/17 season, our snow removal employees can’t get to work, thus delaying your snow removal experience.

So, what’s the solution? Among other things Elements Mountain Company must pay a competitive wage that allows its employees to afford local housing options and must look into solutions to address the local housing shortage and climbing cost of living, like developing its own workforce housing.

Resources: The Vexing Problem Of Short Term Rentals – Moonshine Ink

Town Of Truckee Street Clearing Operations

The Town of Truckee is the agency responsible for clearing the roads in Tahoe Donner. They have four loaders and one sand truck dedicated to clearing Tahoe Donner streets. The tractors are stored at the Town of Truckee maintenance yard on Northwoods Blvd. near the intersection with Snowpeak Way.

The Town has divided Tahoe Donner into four, roughly equal quadrants. Each tractor and associated equipment operator is assigned to clear one of these four routes. As with the private snow removal contractors, the time that your street gets cleared is subject to where your street falls on the Town’s route. Generally, a street will get cleared once per shift (more on shifts below). Depending upon the amount of snow, it takes the Town from 8 to 12 hours to clear all streets.

The Town also has one sand truck assigned exclusively to Tahoe Donner. This truck is responsible for clearing and selectively sanding Northwoods Blvd. (from Donner Pass Road), Lausanne Way (from Northwoods to Schussing), Schussing Way, Alder Creek Road and Hansel Avenue. Because this truck moves rapidly it can clear these streets multiple times during a given shift. If you live or drive on one of these streets you may have noticed that there is never more than a couple of inches of snow on the street at any given time.

From mid December to mid March the Town employs both a day and night street clearing crew. Shift start times are 6:00 am for the day crew and 6:00 pm for the night crew. During a continuous snow storm the Town will usually clear each street twice, once during the day shift and once during the night shift.

Before mid December and after mid March the Town lays off its seasonal snow clearing operators and only staffs enough equipment operators for one crew to clear most Tahoe Donner streets. During this timeframe the Town only runs its street clearing crew during the day and does not clear streets at night, with the exception that main arteries streets like Northwoods Blvd. and Alder Creek will be cleared both day and night as needed.

Resources: Track Town Of Truckee Snow Removal Equipment

Snow Removal Route Methodology

A snow removal route is a collection of homes within close proximity that are serviced by one equipment operator and specialized snow removal tractor. Last winter SnowTech had 22 geographically unique routes in Tahoe Donner.

We structure each route so that all homes on the route can be cleared in about 4.5 to 5 hours during a 6 to 8 inch snow event and in about 6.5 to 7 hours with a 12+ inch snow event.

Each operator is assigned to a specific route. Because each operator clears the same homes every clearing shift the operator learns the fastest, most effective manner in which to clear each driveway. This also allows the operator to learn the occupancy habits of the homeowners on this route and make adjustments whenever possible to provide the most timely clearings.

As we gain or lose clients on any given year our routes may change slightly from the previous year. However, it’s our goal to keep our route structure as close to the previous year’s flow to provide our clients with a level of timing and performance predictability.

You can help us provide the best, most timely snow removal service by committing to our snow removal service as early as possible. The earlier we can accurately identify our route structure and start familiarizing our operators on the homes they will clear the quicker we can provide you with timely, thorough snow removal.