Sports teams often need to use their fields year-round. Be prepared for inclement weather and plan for snow removal by asking yourself these questions:
- How much snow is predicted to fall?
- How much snow has already fallen?
- Is it wet, heavy snow or light, powdery snow?
- What does the customer want?
- What do the players need from the field?
- Will temperatures through the day melt any snow?
- Is there space to push the snow, or is it a crowded area that needs snow removal?
The first action to take is to check manufacturer warranty and recommendations. Often, plowing will void the warranty because it can tear the turf fibers. Know the policies and procedures ahead of the winter season and contact your manufacturer with any questions. If you know snow is on the horizon, tarp the fields to make snow removal easier and less damaging.
With synthetic turf, snow can be removed as soon as it begins to fall. Ideally, no more than 2-4 inches should be allowed to accumulate on the field. If higher snowfall is in the forecast, try to move snow as it falls to prevent damage.
Snow Removal Methods
There are different methods you can use to move snow, depending on your needs, type of snow, and field layout.
For wet snow, using a vehicle with plows should remove the snow cover. Be sure to use a plow with a rubber tip or cover a metal blade tip with PVC to protect the turf. If the snow is dry and powdery with a little accumulation, you can use snow blowers- these can be walkable or attached to a tractor or vehicle.
However, if accumulations are over a foot deep, blowing won’t move all the snow. It’s best practice to use a tractor with your removal method, such as a front-end loader, snowplow, or blower. When using a tractor, be mindful of the amount of snow you are removing. Leave the last 10 or so inches and remove them with a walkable snowblower. Take your time and go slow to avoid damage.
With any removal method, it’s also important to note that you should leave a quarter to half inch of snow on the turf’s surface. If all snow is removed with the methods above, there’s a high likelihood of damage to the fibers, seams, and removal of infill. This way, you also won’t have to worry about plowing with the turf’s seams.
This last half inch of snow can be removed multiple ways as well. The sun is a great choice if possible- allowing the field to dry out for 30 minutes should melt the remaining snow as synthetic turf heats very quickly. Using a field groomer may also speed up the melting process. If the sky is still overcast, more infill can be spread to melt the snow. This is a safe choice for athletes and works well in the synthetic turf system. Do not use ice melt or other chemicals as this can be harmful and irritating to athletes and can also damage the turf by becoming sticky.
Infill Choice Matters
Often, crews will report of black crumb rubber pellets being easily displaced during snow removal, leaving piles of blow spotted snow in the corners of the field. This is unsightly and can affect the field play and the environment, especially if not put back on the field. Envirofill is a solid choice, especially for cold weather areas, because there is minimal infill movement. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill noticed that there was much less infill displacement during their cleanup after the 2018 Raleigh snowstorms.
Another benefit to infill is that it also helps the field avoid icing over in cold temperatures after snow removal. If ice forms, driving over the turf in a tractor can help break it up. Tarping the field can also keep it warm enough to not ice over.
Always have a snow removal plan, even if the forecast says snowfall is unlikely. Do check the weather and prep crews for said plan. This will help keep communication clear between you, the crew, and the client to save precious time. If you’re caring for fields at a high school, consider asking for a list of volunteers before winter in case extra hands are needed during time sensitive snow removals. Be sure to also communicate all warranty information and procedures to volunteers as well as crew if they are utilized.
With proper preparation, snow won’t change the game schedules and your clients will be pleased. If you need any help in creating a snow removal plan or need tools for the job, visit your local SiteOne branch for assistance or shop SiteOne.com.