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12-11-2018

Our Top Tips for Removing Snow from Your Synthetic Turf Field

A beautiful, white blanket of snowflakes turns the outside world from barren and bleak into a winter wonderland. And while we enjoy the magical feeling snow brings, feet upon feet of it can turn into a nuisance fast. It doesn’t matter whether you’re used to the snow or Old Man Winter sends a surprise storm: those seemingly innocent white drops can be hard to deal with — especially when it comes to taking care of your artificial turf field. 

One of the reasons why you may have installed your synthetic turf field in the first place was to reduce maintenance costs over the turf’s lifetime. After all, it can be less expensive than maintaining natural grass surfaces. But that initial investment needs to be protected to ensure that you’re getting a return on the amount of money you put into it. In northern climates (where we see a lot of snowfall in the winter,) this protection and having a plan in place to remove snow from artificial turf field surfaces is even more crucial for those who manage fields. 

By far, the biggest obstacle in maintaining an artificial turf field in the late fall season or getting it ready for early spring practices and games is volatile weather, and oftentimes that means being tasked with the challenge of removing snow from your artificial turf field. 

As a manager of a synthetic turf field, how you go about snow removal and the mechanisms you have in place to do so, can alleviate a lot of headaches down the road. So, you want to get prepared now! 

When planning for artificial turf snow removal, there are a number of questions you’ll need to answer as you start crafting your snow removal plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you through the process:

  • How much snow is predicted to fall?
  • How much snow has accumulated?
  • What type of snow is it – wet and heavy or light and powdery?
  • How soon does the synthetic turf surface need to be used?
  • What do field users need?
  • What are space limitations of the artificial turf field area – are there open areas to push the snow or is it a small, confined area that the snow must be removed from?
  • Will daytime temperatures allow for any melting?

Knowing the answers to these questions can help put a solid plan in place for removing snow from your synthetic turf field while making sure the investment you put into your artificial turf field is protected.

With synthetic turf fields, your warranty is king. That being said, it’s important that you know the policies and procedures for taking proper care of your field in accordance with your turf providers warranty. Improper care and having the wrong plan may void your warranty and decrease the longevity of your field. Make sure you read and fully understand your field’s warranty information, and contact your installer with any questions ahead of time, as warranty policies do differ between makers.

As they say, prevention is the best medicine. Knowing the weather forecast in conjunction with your athletic schedule will help your field’s surface and save you from extra work.

Types of Snow

Weather is often unpredictable, but in an optimal scenario, try not to let more than 2-4” of snow accumulate on the field. Removing snow from your synthetic turf field can begin right as snow starts to fall. In those inevitable times when higher snow accumulations occur and removal is simply not possible, there are a few things to consider:

Dry Snow, minimal accumulation

If the snow has a dryer texture, it can be blown off. Utilizing a leaf blower or attaching your blower to a tractor are both effective methods to remove snow from your artificial turf surface without causing damage to the field.

Wet snow, heavy accumulation

With heavy, wet snow and higher accumulations, blowing the snow off the synthetic turf field is just not possible. If you’ve tried to do this in the past, you can probably attest that it was a less than enjoyable experience. 

There’s an alternative approach to try that will cause you less frustration — snow plowing. Snow may be plowed off the field using the following procedures:

  • Do not use a metal bladed plow. Plows should have either a rubber coating on the blade or a PVC fitting over the metal blade edge.
  • It’s important that the bottom ¼-½” layer of snow be left on the field and that the field is not scraped clean as doing so will increase the chances of damage to the synthetic fibers of the field or the seams. Always plow at a slow and steady speed.
  • Synthetic turf heats up fast and requires just a little sunshine to do so. A few exposed spots of green will greatly accelerate the process. Running a field groomer over this after application can help speed the process as well. In the past, deicer has been used, however, this may cause skin irritation and can turn into a sticky substance when it mixes with the turf, so this application should be avoided.

Ice Removal

For some, ice is the true winter enemy. It’s dangerous, tough to break, and a downright pain to deal with. 

The development of ice on synthetic turf fields presents a unique challenge to field caretakers. Even the best efforts to remove snow for a day of events on a field can quickly go south when water freezes after activities stop and cooler nighttime temperatures set in. In these circumstances, driving a tractor over the field to break up the ice can help.

Chose a Durable Synthetic Infill

Your infill should work for you no matter the weather conditions. 

With the standard crumb rubber infill for synthetic turf fields, you’ll often hear gripes from maintenance crews of black piles of snow laying around their field after removing snow. This is caused by displacement of the black crumb rubber pellets that easily move around during the snow removal process. Choosing another synthetic turf infill, such as Envirofill, can help ensure there is minimal infill movement and it provides a cleaner snow removal experience — a win-win for everyone involved. 

When a foot of snow fell on Raleigh on Jan 17, 2018, Envirofill customer Director of Athletic Facilities at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Casey Carrick and his team were quick to take action and get the soccer and lacrosse teams back onto the fields.

“We had recently purchased a SnoPusher from Pro-Tech which came in handy for this snow event. We moved the snow across the field to the sidelines. What really surprised us is the relatively small amount of Envirofill infill that stuck to the snow. Typically when we plow fields with rubber infill, there is a significant amount of rubber that sticks to the snow that is being pushed to the field perimeter. When the piles of snow on the sidelines melt, they leave a windrow of rubber material which then needs to be moved back onto the field.” Envirofill stays where it should – in the turf – which makes it one of the lowest maintenance artificial turf infills on the market.

Be Proactive by Having a Snow Removal Plan

Snow and in particular, high accumulations of it, present a unique challenge for synthetic turf field managers. Having a plan in place and being prepared for these instances relieves the stressful burden of scrambling to figure out a plan after the fact. 

An additional consideration, especially for high school facilities, would be to have a list of volunteers prepared that may assist with snow removal of the field when necessary. Parents, athletes, maintenance teams, and community volunteers is a great place to start. Be absolutely sure that the warranty information is known and communicated to those tasked with snow removal for your specific field at all times.

With the right plan in place, along with knowledge and experience, even the harshest of climates will still allow you to keep activities for all teams on schedule while protecting your investment and the synthetic turf playing surface too.

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