Age-old equipment keeps snowdrifts at bay in Chippewa County

Battling winter’s everlasting ferocity is sometimes best executed with age-old tools. Chippewa County Road Commission (CCRC) uses its age-old apparatus known as a “bank slicer” to battle tall-ish snowdrifts in the county.

CCRC’s bank slicer is a wing for the grader that has been inverted from a normal wing and installed behind the drive wheels, rather than ahead like most wings. It hovers above the ground with the leading edge toward the front of the grader and carves through snowbanks to bring the snow onto the roadway. A blower following then collects the snow and blows it away from the roadway.

CCRC’s snow battling technology is featured in the Fall 2019 edition of Crossroads, the quarterly journal of the County Road Association (CRA) of Michigan.

“It serves two functions,” said Rob Laitinen, PS, CCRC superintendent-manager.

“One, it keeps the blower machine on good footing. It also leaves a nice sloped snowbank instead of a vertical face that a snowblower cut would make, and allows the wind to follow the slop of that snowbank. That helps prevent drifting. If you left a vertical wall, it would drift back immediately,” Laitinen said.

Laitinen said he’s never seen an apparatus like the bank slicer anywhere else and it’s not commercially available. It’s so old, no one currently working at CCRC knows when it was built.

Since the machine is “homemade,” it is easy to maintain.

“It’s pretty simple. It’s got cables and chains that attach it to the grader, and it’s kind of foolproof. Now and again you might break a chain or you might do this or that, but they’re easy repairs you can make in the field.”

The apparatus typically makes its appearance in February, and continues to make follow-up appearances on clear, windy days throughout the winter.