Sometimes Even a Tractor Can’t Conquer Hidden Icy Hazards

Icy walking paths (especially after heavy snow) can be tricky enough to stall even a utility tractor with a 7-foot snowblower. Here's how we freed the machine.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

As if the winter of 2018-19 hasn’t been difficult enough already, a series of snowy weather challenges last week culminated in an event so unexpected that it’s almost satirical when you look back on it.

What am I talking about? A tractor-powered snowblower got stuck in the snow.

A Perilous Path

Let me backtrack a bit.

I’m sure if you’ve lived in northern regions, you know what happens when you repeatedly walk over the same snowy path multiple times a day. You pack down the snow. The snow turns to a hard, icy layer. The path heaves up and becomes higher than the surrounding ground, which has not been walked on.

But of course, you can’t see that it’s higher than the surrounding ground because this is your carefully cleared path. And the surrounding ground is surely buried under a deep layer of snow.

Well, last week, we had so much snow that the walking paths on our farm disappeared beneath 3 feet of the stuff. The volume of snow was so extraordinary that we asked a neighbor to help dig us out.

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He brought his tractor with tire chains and a 7-foot snowblower. We figured it would handle the deep snow without issue.

For the most part, it worked. It cleared the driveway just fine. Then, while clearing the walking paths, the tractor straddled the frozen (and hidden) walking path.

Suddenly, the tractor bottomed out with its wheels on either side of the path and the frame resting on the hard ice layer. It was stuck fast, spinning its wheels with no way to gain traction.

Human Powered

You can probably imagine what came next. We backed up a truck in an attempt to pull the tractor out. But when the truck threatened to get stuck too, we abandoned that plan.

Instead, we enlisted half a dozen people with shovels to dig under the wheels and frame of the tractor. We used concrete blocks and wooden planks to provide a foundation for the tractor to back out of its snowy trap.

It took a while, but we finally got the tractor free.

We temporarily halted the snowblowing project and considered other options for navigating the walking paths. (Snowshoes, anyone?)

Take Heed

I share this story mainly to illustrate the (somewhat) humorous notion of a utility tractor with a 7-foot snowblower getting stuck in the snow. But it’s also a cautionary tale (as well as an example of how using rudimentary equipment and materials such as shovels, concrete blocks and planks can help you out of a jam).

Winters can be tough. You might assume that having the biggest and best equipment will let you handle any amount of snow and ice, but that’s not always the case.

Something as obscure as a frozen walking path, hidden from sight, can reduce an otherwise powerful tractor into a helpless, wheel-spinning machine requiring extensive human aid to get it back on firm ground.

This is why you should be aware of just how troublesome frozen walking paths can be. When carefully maintained, the firm footing they provide makes winter walking relatively easy.

But lose track of such a path in a snowstorm, and it turns into an annoying hump. It covertly threatens to derail any machine that drifts into the mushy snow on either side.

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