British Columbia

So your sidewalk is covered in a thick layer of Zamboni-slick ice. Now what?

The New Year's ​snow-rain-freeze cycle caught even the most dedicated sidewalk clearers off guard, and with temperatures staying frigid for at least the next week a rescuing melt is not imminent.

Expert advice from a snow and ice professional. Hint: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Burnaby's Yan family use an axe, two shovels and wheelbarrow to try and clear the ice and snow from their driveway. (Cory Correia/CBC)

Blang! Blang! Blang!

The unofficial beat for Metro Vancouver in 2017 comes courtesy of the many citizens attempting to chip away at the latest layer of Zamboni-slick ice encasing their sidewalks and driveways.

The New Year's ​snow-rain-freeze cycle managed to catch even the most dedicated sidewalk-clearers off guard. And with temperatures forecast to stay frigid for the next week a rescuing melt is not imminent. 

Rob Thibault says the simple act of applying de-icer before the snow hits will save people a lot of effort and frustration. (

So we asked expert Rob Thibault for some advice in dealing with the slippery mess. Thibault operates TBO's Snow and Ice Management and is in the midst of his busiest season ever.

What's the best way to deal with that rock-hard layer of ice?

If you try and chip the ice away chances are you're going to break the tool you're using and damage the asphalt or concrete below. It may seem like a good idea to start smashing away. But usually the cost is higher physically, and on your equipment and surfaces. We use a double de-ice — two applications of de-icer. Keep applying de-icer until you get down to a bare surface.

What do you use to melt the ice?

We use a 20 to 50 per cent sand/grit mix with [salt]. That helps with two things. First, when the salt works and dissolves, it adds traction and stability. The other one is visibility. Pedestrians and business owners see the product there and they feel safer, plus it makes them more cautious.

A senior makes his way down an icy sidewalk near Hillcrest Park in Vancouver. (Cory Correia/CBC News)

More snow is coming and the freezing temperatures are here to stay for a while. What's your advice?

A lot of people try to save five bucks by not putting their salt down first...but the liability and the risk from one slip or one day of not getting into work is always more expensive than it might be to put down that first de-icer. So it's save a penny but spend a pound. You definitely want to do the de-icer early because it's too late by the time you need it. 

How busy has your company been the last month?

I can't even tell you. One day a week I get six hours of sleep and six days a week I get two hours. I've expanded from a loose team of 15 up to 45. Mostly we're working with businesses. Residents usually wait too long and it's too late by the time they call.

What other tips do you have?

A lot of contractors have those steel blades on a hydraulic plow and a lot of people think that's the way to go. It's actually not. Most of our plows are mechanical and operate based on gravity and the force of a truck.

In our zone, the snow and ice is slushy and the best thing for that is something that sits with gravity and pushes across the surface of it. It's like trying to push oil with a spatula versus a butter knife. Our mechanical plows are like [spatulas] and are the most efficient vehicle for sure.

Rob Thibault is in the midst of his busiest season ever thanks to all the snow and cold weather across Metro Vancouver the last month. (Crystal Soukoreff)