4 Steps to a Smarter Snow Removal Plan

Winter can be the busiest time of the year for some property owners and managers. Budgeting and planning now is the best way to avoid being caught off guard.
Missy Henriksen

It can be difficult to prioritize planning for subzero temperatures and snowfall when the weather is still warm, but it is undeniable that in the upcoming months, snow will fall. In some areas, preparing for snowfall is one of the most crucial planning decisions property owners and managers will make. The best way to avoid being caught off-guard by hazardous weather is to begin thinking about snow and ice management now and finalize a plan early.

Most properties have a general snow and ice removal plan in place, but many owners and managers find themselves in a panic when their building is covered in snow. Avoid snow-induced chaos by making snow management a priority, starting early and following these four simple steps to a smarter snow removal plan.

Don’t base a plan on weather predictions

Although weather predictions are useful, they should not be used as the foundation of snow and ice management plans. Regardless of how much snow is expected to fall this year, property owners and managers should budget for a snowier and colder than normal winter. Weather forecasts are constantly changing, so it is important to have a set budget and procedure in place that covers even the snowiest of seasons. Planning for a mild winter, but facing unexpected extreme blizzard-like conditions can cost properties money and time, as well as lead to major safety issues. 

Reflect on previous years

Before preparing for future winter weather, think back to previous years and how snow removal was handled. In the midst of a major snowstorm, it can be difficult to adjust processes, so reflect on what did and didn’t work later, so the same mistakes aren’t made twice. Property owners and managers should determine which areas of the asset have faced drainage issues, as well as which areas have been most problematic with ice. It is necessary to identify areas that have dealt with melting and refreezing issues in the past because this can cause hazardous conditions for pedestrians.

Property managers should share any observations from previous years with their landscape contractor, so changes can be implemented into the snow management contract. Identifying the problem spots before finalizing the contract is key.

Review your snow and ice management contract

Once that first snowflake falls from the sky, property managers anxiously await the arrival of the first plow, but it is important to understand what services are included in snow and ice management contracts ahead of time. First, check for exactly which services are included in the contract, including but not limited to plowing snow, shoveling paths and walkways, and treating roads and sidewalks with deicing products. It is not always possible to completely remove snow, so it is also necessary to map out exactly where the snow piles will be placed on the building ahead of the season’s first flakes. In addition to understanding the specific services provided, it is important to be aware of the logistics outlined in the contract and know when to expect service after a storm and how many times a contractor will plow during a large storm. Knowing the answers to these questions is not only beneficial for property managers, but crucial to the safety of pedestrians. 

Walk-through with a landscape contractor

Following the review of a snow and ice management contract, property owners and managers should schedule a comprehensive walk-through with the contractor. Do not wait until winter to meet with the contractor, as many snow and ice removal companies will not have the time or capacity to visit the property in-person during their busy season. A walk-through allows for the opportunity to openly discuss the management plan and work through any outstanding questions. Together, a contractor and property manager can determine the best spot for snow piles, and which areas of the asset are priorities for plowing and deicing.

A walk-through is also a great time for a contractor and property manager to lay out expectations for service during extreme conditions, such as dangerously low temperatures or high winds. Safety of pedestrians and the contractor’s employees is always the top priority during all emergency planning.

Winter can be the busiest time of the year for some property owners and managers. Budgeting and planning for snow removal now is the best way to avoid being caught off-guard when winter weather hits and alleviate unneeded stress. Thinking about inclement weather ahead of time is the best way to ensure safety, access and smooth operations year-round.


Missy Henriksen is vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals, which represents an industry that employs nearly one million landscape, lawn care, irrigation and tree care professionals who create and maintain healthy green spaces for the benefit of society and the environment. Learn more by visiting LoveYourLandscape.org.