In the snow and ice removal business, it's also up to contractors to accept the terms of Mother Nature and make the most of whatever situation arises. To many, that means plowing into the coming season with plenty of leftover deicing material, and in some cases, "new" equipment that was barely put to the test last year.
"We bought two box plows last year and never used them," Lindoerfer says. "So we're not looking to buy much this year. But it seems like this year would be a good year to buy if you needed to. There's a good market for 'used' equipment. A lot of guys got into the plowing business last year thinking it would be easy money. Now they're looking to sell off their equipment because last year didn't work and they want out."
Beaver also bought a couple of new box plows last year. He also bought a new truck and straight blade. None of it saw much use. "So we're not looking to do too much this year," Beaver says. "Right now we have enough reliable equipment to take care of what we have. We'll see how this year goes, and how the election turns out, and then look at replacing a few trucks and plows."
Arsenault plans on buying a Caterpillar wheel loader this year. "We'd picked up a big shopping center and knew we needed a wheel loader to handle it," Arsenault says. "But I'm glad we didn’t make any rash decisions last year. This year, however, we'll be buying that Caterpillar."
If Mother Nature cooperates, all snow removal contractors will be replenishing their inventories of ice melt sometime this winter. But many—including Beaver and Emick—won't be doing so right out of the gate.
"We have a lot of salt and ice melt left over from last year," Beaver says. "We only salted twice last year. So we won't be re-stocking at the start of this season."
"We have a lot of ice melt in inventory to start the season," Emick chimes in. "We try to anticipate storms and temperatures to have just the right amount on hand, but that's getting harder to do here on Colorado's Front Range."
Belote says it is getting harder to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to liquid deicing/anti-icing products. "I would like to venture into liquid deicing, but don't want to try out something on a customer and have it fail," Belote says. "But we are looking into it, and at some point will be trying to encourage some customers to make the switch—possibly to a combination of salt and liquid products."