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‘Hoping for snow’: the downside of a snowless winter on Edmonton businesses that rely on it

What do you do when your business is clearing snow and there hasn’t been any snow to clear this winter?

“You get creative,” according to Greg Linker, owner of Little Creek Landscaping, an Edmonton-area business.

Linker has spent the last 16 winters clearing snow. His equipment, along with his workers, now sit idle waiting for snow.

“It’s been pretty difficult,” he said.

“We’ve had some contracts leave, and with that you lose out on work for staff.”

Linker’s landscaping company normally employs seven people during the winter, but this year they’re down to three.

“We trying to find other work for the guys,” Linker said. “But there’s only so much you can do to keep them busy until the landscaping season starts.”

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It’s a similar story at the Lawnmower Hospital.

Any other winter, the lawnmower service would naturally transition into snow-blower service, but this year it has had to get creative, offering customers incentives to buy spring equipment now.

Manager Mike Donnelly says they’re also servicing a lot of spring and summer equipment like chainsaws and trimmers, before the big spring and summer rush.

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“The snow season is relatively impulsive, where if you don’t need us, you don’t see us,” he said. “And we’re just not seeing that type of customer volume.”

Donnelly said the Lawnmower Hospital is trying to keep staff busy but there are days where they “get to spend a little more time at home” because there is nothing to do at work.

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Homeowner Vicky Hildebrandt says she won’t cancel her snow-clearing contract, even if there’s no snow in sight.

“It’s coming — the snow is coming,” she said. “I have no problem paying — it’s no different than paying homeowner’s insurance or car insurance.”

Many property managers are in the unique position of having to continue paying their snow-clearing contracts as well.

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“We’re reminding our contractors they still have to inspect buildings for proper ice melt and put sand down for safety and liability reasons,” said Dan Lachambre with Realty Canada.

Many condominiums have rules and insurance providers have clauses that ensure property managers keep buildings safe from slips and falls in common areas like parking lots.

“Most people are generally understanding from building to building, but there are those that ask, ‘Why am I paying for this?’” said Ryan Veerhoeff, a property manager with Realty Canada.

Veerhoeff estimates many of the buildings he manages are still paying between $1,800 and $3,000 per month for snow-clearing services they haven’t used because the contracts need to remain in place.

“The freeze-thaw cycle over the past couple of years has been really challenging, but we still need those vendors that are being paid on a contract basis,” Veerheoff said. “They need to do their due diligence and make sure they can get to the site and make sure the ice is being managed properly.

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“The snow will come.”

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Warm and dry conditions increase Alberta wildfire risk

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