Thursday, January 7, 2016

Understanding The City’s snow and ice clearing standards

When snow falls in Calgary, our crews plow, salt and sand according to the Seven Day Snow Plan. That means focusing on clearing high-volume roads first. On a snowy day like today, crews will work on these busy Priority 1 routes as the snow continues to fall. When these roads are finished, they’ll move into playground zones and residential areas over the next few days.

So, what does “finished” mean? From a City standpoint, there are well-defined standards for snow clearing on our roads that keep our streets safe while staying on budget.

What does a complete road look like?
Under the Snow and Ice Control policy, Priority 1 roads are plowed first and snow is cleared down to bare pavement within 24 hours after the snow has stopped falling. Once those roads are done, crews work on feeder/collector Priority 2 routes, which are also cleared to bare pavement.

Priority 1 and 2 routes: Bare Pavement Standard
On Priority 1 and 2 routes, crews plow the snow so pavement is showing on through-lanes. In order to clear these roads down to bare pavement, crews put down material to prevent iciness and soften the snow. Then they use either a front plow (on the front of a sander) or a belly plow (underneath the truck) to move the snow to the side of the road.

Residential roads: Packed Snow Standard
Residential streets are included in The City’s snow control efforts, too. Under the policy, residential roads and playground zones (P3 & P4 routes) are worked on, but are not cleared to the pavement like Priority 1 and 2 routes.

Crews typically “flat blade” in residential areas. That means a sander operator tilts the blade down and scrapes the snow, packing it down in attempt to minimize ruts and make the road passable. Crews use their plows to knock down snow ruts to 12 cm on residential roads and apply material like salt or pickle, a salt/gravel mixture, depending on road temperatures. Making residential roads passable ensures that all emergency vehicles are able to maintain access.

More information on the City’s snow and ice control
For current updates on snow clearing efforts, FAQs, and more information on our Seven Day Snow Plan, visit


  1. What is not considered is the snow damns (currently almost 2 ft tall)the ploughs leave behind particularly at bus stops. Snow clearing helps motorists while causing grief to those of us that have to commute by using transit.

  2. Agreed with the other comment - the snow dams are clearly not part of the plan. I have seen people really struggling to get up and over these at bus stops or even just in front of their homes. What about snow "clearing"? These snow dams are a real hazard in so many ways - pushes parked cars further into traffic, pedestrians have to climb over, they turn to solid ice dams after we've had some warm weather and they re-freeze. The city should be REmoving the snow, not just moving the snow. Yes, cost - I get it. But budget for it. Other cities do it, we can too.

  3. Snow that has accumulated at the end of driveways and sides of streets during plowing (windrows) is a by-product of clearing the roads. The City’s equipment used to clear snow does not remove the snow completely. However, we do our best to keep windrows small by evenly distributing the snow on either side of the road.

    If a windrow is taller than 30 centimetres and impeding a resident’s ability to enter their driveway a crew can come by and assess the windrow and remove if required. You can make a request to have snow removed from a City sidewalk, pathway or road using this website:

    Learn more about windrows here:

    1. City of Calgary does do snow removal of snow damns or windrows after the 7-day snow plan is completed when weather permits if it starts to snow again we are back to day-1 on the 7-day snow plan

  4. if we required snow tires we incur a lot less problems.

  5. Packing the snow down with a flat blade on P3 and P4 roads works (in theory) for cars but makes the road nearly impassable for cyclists. Packed snow is so much harder to ride on than loose snow. Packed snow might as well be the same as trying to ride on a sandy beach.

  6. What is the use of the tax property paid by the residents of Calgary. Isn't that's the one of the fees being paid to the CHMC?

    1. You can find a breakdown of how property taxes are distributed by visiting