Sean Jansen

A Day in the Life: Snow Plowing


   ~Sean Jansen


My alarm goes off at two, yes two in the morning. I wipe my foggy eyes and reach for my phone as I try to turn off the alarm blinded by the darkness of Montana’s winter. I sit on the edge of my bed and look out the window at the street light that beams down from above my car. It is caked in snow. The forecast the night previous called for an inch, there is clearly three or more. My flannel lined Carharts get put on, a base layer, then long-sleeved shirt, company sweat shirt, and down jacket that is goose lined follows. I grab my backpack that has an extra jacket, phone charger, and snacks along with my plow truck keys and head to the kitchen to make coffee, the only thing to keep me warm other than the truck heater in the negative temperatures outside. I turn on the coffee maker then head out to the car to start and warm her up. I deep fry some bacon and eggs and slap them down on a piece of toast with cheese and try my best to prepare my core for a frigid morning in the darkness of this dreary winter weekday.


The car is warmed with the defroster on full blast at max heat. I put my gloves on a wipe away the remaining powder from both the windshield and hood of my Subaru and put her into first gear. I pop the clutch and begin driving on the roads with inches of powder and not another soul in sight. I get to the shop and start the plow truck. She struggles to turn over much like I did when my alarm went off from my warm bed a half hour previous. Her defroster gets put on and the engine roars to life, ready to clear all in its path once stretched and warm.


I walk into the shop and grab both a snow shovel and two to three bags of ice melt and huck them into the back of the truck not visible whatsoever from the amount of powder blanketed across the bed. I clock in and start and warm the ATV for fellow co-workers coming to the shop shortly who manage the city sidewalks and walkways. I use the V-blade plow truck specializing in commercial apartment and residential driveways all with the goal to clear all walkways, sidewalks, and roadways before business and personal hours begin, hence the three AM start.


I put the truck into gear, lift the plow with my hydraulic control plugged into the controller mounted below the steering wheel, and head to the first account of the 20 or so listed on my clipboard with random addresses. 4x4 has been locked into gear and now begin seeing other plow companies up and at it well before sunrise. The work day has begun, it’s about twenty after three now.


The first account is visible after a ten-minute drive and several sips from my purposely strong cup of coffee. It is a coffee shop that typically has 20-30 vehicles an hour from six until nine. Now its parking lot and sidewalks are empty and devoid of all except three to four inches of freshly dropped powder. I step out of the truck, grab the snow shovel, and begin shoveling the patios, sidewalks, door entrances, and stairway. After about 15 minutes, my shoveling job is done. Now begins the spread of ice melt. They come in 20 pound bags that we cut open and pour into 5 gallon buckets. They are these little blue dissolvable peas that we throw in front of doorways and commonly walked areas to help aid in melting the ice build up that accumulates from the dripping overhanging rooftop. Once both the shoveling and ice melt spreading is done, I finally get to jump back into the heated truck, grab the snow plow controller and drop the plow blade and clear the parking lot. Sometimes I need to drive up to a parking spot, drop the plow and back drag the pile out to a main area to be able to push the snow to an organized pile elsewhere. All with hopes of not hitting the building, backing into a hidden snow covered wall, or slipping and sliding into an overnight parked car on an icy day and causing my boss, who is also out plowing, an enormous headache of finances and potentially firing me from my duty. And after about a half hour of this, my first account of about twenty is scratched from the list as I head to the next one.


Most of us do it for the hours and pay with the illusion of thinking you get to still ski on powder days. However that is not the case. The pay is certainly good but the hours are up for debate. I do indeed get to ski daily on off days and if I have energy, attack the slopes if or when an early day does occur. But when you wake at two and work a ten-hour day finishing at one in the afternoon, all one thinks about is a nap or a movie. We don’t work 9 to 5’s or 40 hour work weeks, we work when mother nature dictates and do so in order to help others get to work in a timely fashion in the long harsh winter months by clearing sidewalks, driveways, and your favorite businesses for caffeine or a quick bite before work. Some people complain about our tardiness, work, lack of work, or many other reasons both personal and professional. And I do understand, however I caution and beg those in hopes that maybe reading this you may understand what it’s like and wish that people have more of an understanding and appreciation for what we do on a daily basis in winter without ever being seeing on most days by the general public.