Pros: Sturdy--blade/handle. Shovels well. D-handle grip. Metal stem. Takes abuse. Assembled in USA.
Cons: Not as good for snow pushing. Needs more room for storage.
Two years ago we bought two snow shovels--an Ames TrueTemper Arctic Blast with an ergonomic (bent) handle (probably model no. 1627100) and an Ames TrueTemper Klondike (model no. 1574600) with a straight handle.
Describing the Shovels
Our ergonomic Ames Arctic Blast (which seems to match the description of the one listed here) is a solid, but lightweight shovel with a sturdy steel-core metal handle that ends in a comfortable D-grip. Ours is a dark teal-green, but it might come in other colors. The 18-inch wide blade is a good shape for scooping, with a shallow lip on the left and right edges. It can hold a comfortable amount of snow. Wider snow shovels are available, but even though I'm fairly strong, I don't think I could easily lift more snow than what this shovel can hold. The blade has grooves molded in a fan-shaped pattern. The blade is polyvinyl, but it feels very sturdy and has a thin piece of metal rivetted to the edge for extra strength.
The Ames Klondike is also lightweight, with a red, straight handle and a black, 18-inch polyvinyl blade and black D-grip. The D-grip and blade are about the same shape as the ergonomic Ames, but the blade has grooves that are parallel, running front to back and doesn't have any metal reinforcing. The Ames Klondike looks flimsy, but this is deceptive. The seemingly plastic handle has a steel core (we confirmed it with a magnet) and is very sturdy.
How They Compare
The ergonomic Ames is a good, all-purpose snow shovel. Good for picking up a spadeful of snow and tossing it. I don't really notice a difference with the bent ergonomic handle, but my husband finds the bent handle more comfortable for shovelling through heaps of snow. (He's almost 6 feet tall. I'm much, much shorter).
We thought we would prefer the ergonomic Ames, but the Klondike is our favorite. The reason is that it's better for scraping snow off the driveway. The Klondike can act like a snow pusher (place the blade against the cement or asphalt and hold onto the grip and push) and it moves across the surface like a snow plow, gathering snow in its blade and leaving a fairly snow-free surface behind (how snow-free depends on the smoothness of the surface and the type of snow ). If the snowfall is light enough (say an inch or two), I can easily push the shovel 10 or more feet before I have to stop and toss the accumulated snow out of the way.
Even though the ergonomic Ames has a blade of the same size and similar shape, it doesn't work as well as a snow pusher, so I have to stop and toss snow much more often. We aren't sure why this is. It could be because of the grooves in the blade (snow pusher shovels have grooves running parallel like those on the Klondike), but it could also be because of the metal reinforcing strip. The Klondike doesn't have the metal strip and this might allow it to lay against the asphalt at a slightly flatter angle, making it easier for it to push through the snow.
Not only is the Klondike good for pushing snow, but it's also good for picking it up and tossing it. The handle is sturdy and strong and firmly attached to the blade, which can pick up a good amount of snow (same amount as the ergonomic one). The snow slides off the blade easily. The shovel's light weight makes it easy to shovel for long periods. Our neighbors have some flimsy snow pushers that are great for pushing a few inches of snow to the side, but not good for shovelling through mounds of it. The flimsy snow pushers were not good for handling last month's heavy snowfall.
The straight-handled Klondike stores in very little space, taking up about the same space as a medium-sized rake. The ergo one, because of its bent handle, needs much more room. Both Ames shovels feature a little semicircular cutout at the top of the blade (near where it meets the handle). The cutout makes it easier for the shovels to nest into each other.
How Durable Are They?
We live outside of Seattle. It doesn't snow often here, but it doesn't take much snow to make a snow shovel a real good thing to have. Even though we don't get snow often, we have a LOT of driveway--maybe 20 ft by 20 ft of private driveway and another 100 feet of steep, shared driveway before we get to the street--so even a moderate snowfall means a lot of shovelling.
We've used these snow shovels several times over the past two years--especially last month when a heavy constant snowfall made us go out several times a day for more than a week to scrape more than 18 inches of snow and ice off our driveway. We shovelled often, so the most we had to deal with was a 6-inch layer of snow, but shovelling was made more difficult by the fact that a neighbor who lives above us kept driving over the snow on our part of the shared driveway, packing it into a hard mass of ice that needed to be hacked or scraped away.
Pushing through fresh snow is easy, but you can't easily remove snow that's been driven over. The hard-packed snow was a bear to deal with. I tended to work the blade of the snow shovel under it, removing it bit by bit. One technique I used was to push the blade against the ice and then kick at the back of the blade with my boot to try to pop pieces of ice free of the asphalt. I was a little worried that I might break the blade--but it held up. My husband was much more abusive. Frustrated by the ice, he started using the shovels like pickaxes, swinging them over his head and slamming the front edge of the blades down on the ice again and again. (They aren't meant to be used this way).
Surprisingly enough, the shovels survived what we did to them. The edge of the Klondike blade looks a tiny bit worn and where the handle meets the blade there's a slight wiggle that might not have been there before. However, the wiggle is barely noticeable and doesn't interfere with shovelling. The metal reinforcing popped off of the blade of the ergonomic shovel (but my husband reattached it using small screws). Overall, the shovels are in great shape. If we hadn't used them as sledgehammers they'd probably be fine.
Snow can stick to the blade (making it hard to shovel as much). If that happens, rub or spray the blade with vegetable oil. Snow slides right off. You'll probably have to reapply it a few times.
If you share a driveway, be considerate enough not to drive over the snow if you know someone else is going to be shovelling the driveway.
During snowy weather, a snow shovel is a good thing to keep in the trunk--just in case you or someone else gets stuck in the snow.
It's good to keep some sand around for icy sidewalks and steps. The plastic jugs used for cat litter are a good way to store sand. Sand is heavy and so is cat litter, so the jugs can handle the weight. The handle makes it easy to carry and the sand can be easily poured from the spout.
Ames makes a lot of different snow shovels. To see a complete listing of Ames snow shovels, download their winter catalog at:
Amazon carries the Ames TrueTemper Klondike (model no. 1574600).
Amazon ASIN: B000KL6MMY.
Ames shovels are assembled in America (in Pennsylvania).
Customer Service: 1-800-393-1846
Update: In Puget Sound, Ace and Lowes tend to be better places to shop for snow shovels than Home Depot, which usually doesn't carry any (though last week-- November, 2009--we saw some actual snow shovels at Home Depot Issaquah. It was a surprise since they usually try to convince us that dirt shovels would be good for snow). I don't know about McClendons. Ace tends to have a bigger selection at better prices--but doesn't tend to have any late in the season. Lowes tends to get several shipments of one or two models of Ames shovels throughout the winter. They never know which models they will get, but usually there's an ergonomic one. I also got my Klondike there, but haven't seen that model at Lowes since. Once snow starts falling the shipments can get cleaned out in a matter of hours.