Consider the simplicity, and versatility, of the snow shovel.

In recent years, it’s been upstaged by high-powered snow throwers and fancy truck plow attachments.

But the snow shovel — easy enough for a child to use but complex enough to get you out of almost any snow emergency — continues to be the must-have accessory of a Maine winter.

Like lots of the necessities of modern life — telephones, for instance — snow shovels have grown in variety at a staggering pace. They range from the $5 plastic model found at your supermarket to $150 items like the Snow Wolf by Sno Wovel, a heavy-duty shovel on a giant wheel that basically shovels as you push.

There are also all manner of snow shovels designed with ergonomics in mind. Some have curved or bent necks, others have multiple handles or enlarged grips. And of course, there are pushers if you don’t want to lift your snow, and telescoping rakes to get snow off your roof.

But when looking at all the latest versions of snow shovels out there nowadays, it’s important to think hard about what you will need it for. Here are some general guidelines for choosing the best shovel for your needs, courtesy of Lowe’s:

Consider the conditions. If you’re shoveling 6 inches of snow or less, you might consider a pusher shovel. These have curved blades that aren’t very deep but are designed to push snow out of the way. For slightly more snow, you can get a pusher/shovel combo, which is deeper but still has a curved back to catch snow if you are plowing instead of lifting.

When considering what’s good for your back, look for tools that are lightweight and have curved handles and easy-to-hold grips.

And then you have to consider where you are shoveling, whether it’s a wide driveway, a narrow walk, steps or even your roof.

Shoveling your roof is an important chore to prevent ice dams and long-term roof damage. But it can also be dangerous if you try to climb up there to shovel. It’s literally a slippery slope. (See the accompanying box on roof safety.)

So a telescoping roof rake might be the tool for you, allowing you to clear snow from the roof while still firmly on the ground. They come in all sizes.

One example is the True Temper telescoping aluminum and poly roof rake, which extends to 17 feet long, has a rake that’s 2 feet wide, and has a non-slip handle. It retails for about $46. 

NEW CONCEPT

One of the more interesting shovels to come on the market in the past few years is the Snow Wolf from Sno Wovel. It’s basically a shovel on one big wheel. It looks like an antique bicycle contraption, with a 26-inch scooper blade, a single metal wheel in the middle of the shovel neck, and a two-part handle at the end.

The idea is that as you walk and push, the wheel rotates and lifts the scoop up and down, throwing snow as you go.

The company’s website claims that a University of Massachusetts study found that the Snow Wolf reduces the risk of back injuries and heart trouble. It sells for $149 at wovel.com; the website includes a video of the shovel in action.

Another shovel on wheels is the aptly named Vertex Snow Shovel on Wheels, which has a simple ergonomic handle attached to a shallow metal 2-foot-wide plow blade on two wheels.

It’s designed for fairly light snowfalls, maybe up to 7 inches. The idea is that you can wheel and plow your way through the snow, dumping it into a pile near the street, without ever have to actually lift or throw any snow. It sells for about $70 and is available at Home Depot, among other stores.

You might think all pusher-type shovels wouldn’t work in heavier snow, but more of these types of shovels are being designed to push heavy snow. And they’re being designed to be easy on the back.

One popular model is the SnoBoss from True Temper. It features a 21-inch-wide and 26-inch-high scoop, and is advertised as being half the weight of most sleigh-type shovels, because it’s made of lightweight resins. It has a curved, ergonomic handle and is reversible. Used with one side up, it has a deep scoop for deep snow. Turn it over, and it’s a pusher blade for lighter snow. It retails for about $35. 

EASE YOUR ACHING BACK

If shoveling gives you an aching back, think about ergonomic shovels, which are more easier to find than ever before.

Suncast makes a wide variety of basic shovels and pushers with ergonomic handles designed to put less stress on backs, shoulders, arms and wrists.

One interesting model is the Suncast Double Grip Snow Shovel. It has the curved or bent neck found on most ergonomics shovels, but has two separate handles for a two-handed, and more comfortable, grip. One handle is at the end, like most shovels, and the other is near where the neck of the shovel bends.

It sells for about $32 at most home improvement stores.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]