How do you handle winter weather?

Hello, fairly new host in Vermont here, very appreciative of this forum since joining a few months ago!

We had an ice storm on Christmas and right now the outdoors is covered with two inches of snow on top of black ice. I’ve got guests coming tomorrow and need to work tomorrow morning on prepping their exposed brick and wood walkway. Three questions for this group:

  1. Technical advice on how to clear the walkway? I’m not used to clearing such a large area. Is there a better strategy than just dumping several jugs of salt?

  2. For people with similar weather, do you give your guests a heads up to walk carefully and if so how you phrase it? Even after I clear it, the wind can ice it up again quickly.

  3. Finally, they’ve got dogs they’ll likely want to walk in the yard, but large portions of yard are covered with white ice masquerading as snow. Salting would kill the grass. Do I just count on the guests to walk carefully? Or warn them to? What’s my responsibility when they’re “offroading” so to speak on my property?

Thanks for any advice!

1 Like

I am no expert but I do get weather similar to yours. Be careful with what you use on the walk. Some ice melt type products destroy stone walkways and can hurt dogs feet. Many hosts hate signs, but a small caution sign might give you some liability protection. Verbal warnings are nice but have no record. You might search around for some unique products such as heated walkway mats. Regardless of how diligent you are, be sure that you are well insured. People with dogs renting in Vermont have handled their dogs in the snow before. That said, be sure they are responsible for pick up on your cleared stone and wood walking areas.

  1. def give them some advice, in writing, so if anything goes wrong you did in fact pre-warn them. (we do this about snakes and bushfires here in Australia, even though every australian is aware of such things)
  2. as a complete novice i’d be more than willing to hear any tips about your climate so perhaps just ask that question: if you’re not from this region and need any advice about our changeable weather, please don’t hesitate to ask. Winter weather can be unpredictable … etc.
1 Like

Hello, fellow New Englander but not as far north. I put it upfront in my rules what the guests should expect and even have a picture that explains what to expect in the winter in my photos section

  1. I make it clear that I DO NOT shovel guests cars but there are plenty of shovels and scrapers. I leave them out on the front porch for use.

  2. I also stock up NOW on safe to walkways and pets de-icer. I buy it on amazon in bulk. This is for the walkways. I also have an older ice-dicer bucket with holes on top to make it easy to shake out.

I priced around and found this on amazon: Snow Joe AZ-25-EB Melt-2-Go Nature + Pet Friendly CMA Blended Ice Melter, 25-lb Bag

  1. As for the driveway, I have an agreement with a plow service to come if it’s going to be 4 or more inches or the really heavy snow. He does my 125 foot driveway and shovels the walkway and stairs. I deduct 50 percent of the cost for the STR. Anything less than 4 inches, I plow myself using a re-chargable snowplow. I love this because it’s quiet, don’t have to fuss with gas and I’m up and out in 2 minutes. I live here so it’s easy for me to keep up with a small store. (Yes folks down south, 4 inches is a small storm.

  2. In my rules (and I remind them if a storm is coming via the app) and slide under their door that the plow company doesn’t arrive until the storm as stopped. If they need to be out on the road prior to the end of the storm (which I don’t recommend) then they can park on a shorter driveway that I have and shovel themselves out.

  3. Finally, I stopped giving my guests access to my yard for any reason. I didn’t want the liability. My STR isn’t really a place people want to hang out. My place is for a nice place to stay convenient to Boston, Salem, Beaches and close enough to the airport as a start or end of a New England trip.

  4. I used to set up a table and chair on my side yard but most guests never used it. Also, as a dog owner, I’m pretty aware of how treacherous walking in the snow can be and have ice grippers, snow shoes. Perhaps get some of these for your STR for guests to use.

The main take-away is that you are going to need to get a snowblower and/or company (treating the driveway won’t work.) I highly recommend a battery operated one. I bought a smaller one because I’m only 5’ and new I was going to use a snowplow company for the big stores. I can easily do my driveway without needing an additional charge.


Have you joined your local host community @lthh. If not it’s probably worth joining and see what they suggest too.

Thanks everyone for the great advice! The current guests ended up cancelling due to COVID exposure, but no doubt I’ll be using your suggestions before long.

Lynick, what a brilliant idea about leaving ice grippers for them. Then I also have reason to leave a note why they’re there. Christine, I’ve had a lot of success with signs so that will be a good addition.

No snowblower for me! I love shoveling (and call a plow for big storms). It’s just the ice I can’t get through.

Helsi - how would one find a local host community?

1 Like

Canadian here, @lthh , used to snow and ice.
My strategy with winter guests is to butter them up. I have added “Winter Notes” to my house rules that warn guests that the paths ice up quickly, and that deep snow makes for hard slogging. I end that section with “You need to be just that much tougher and better prepared than our summer guests.”
Since 2013, all winter guests have agreed that they are tough and none have asked me to shovel anything for them. Except their parking spot. I do shovel that as close to when they are to arrive as possible.


@Lawre, love that! I could do something similar in my welcome book. Just got new guests booked tonight so I’ll get on immediately!

1 Like

I’m not @helsi but I found local host groups on Facebook groups.

1 Like

Thanks @Annet3176 ! Perfect.

1 Like

We get a lot of black ice here in WA state. Snowfall will melt during the day and freeze at night. The best thing we have found to do is to shovel the driveways/walkways after every snowfall, even if it’s only a inch. We also have buckets with sand at all of the homes. Sand will melt the ice and snow, perhaps not as well as ice melt, but it won’t ruin our concrete either. Best of luck!

Kitty litter. Lots of it. Sprinkled liberally.

Walkways and roads can ice up quickly, be careful when walking or driving. Black ice on roads is the leading cause of accidents here. Drive slowly.

Are they bringing snowmobiles? Or are you renting them to them? Or just driving the back roads of VT and not aware of black ice?

Put in your HR some winter rules. Make sure your insurance is up to date.

Thanks Spokane and CA! I appreciate your suggestions. I’ve got kitty litter and can get sand from the town so I’ll give it a try.

CA - sorry for causing confusion, I was just using “offroading” out of its normal context to refer to people stepping off the paths cleared for them - in this case, people walking on the icy lawn to relieve their dogs.

1 Like

I’m a former New Yorker who lived in the Boston area for 14 years, so I was wondering! :wink: Good luck!

Yours is a very helpful message. Two takeaways. 1) Keep editing your house manual and 2) Get the basic products guests will need, like the de-icer.

Short paragraphs that are briefly descriptive and more detail to follow, like:

Please Don’t Walk on Landscaping: In winter, it’s VERY slippery. Please be careful out there! We can’t/shouldn’t put ice on it as it kills the grass.

Winter Shovels Provided You: Please find two shovels to help clear the walkway. Find also a closed bucket with a scoop and supply of calcium chloride to spread sparingly on walkway after shoveling to help de-ice. Please keep the calcium chloride protected from the rain/snow as it will ‘eat’ it.

In my area there is a city-wide alert system anyone can easily subscribe to that warns of coming storms. This information is in my house manual, and also in the ‘Emergency Plan’ that is written out and placed in each bedroom.

Great tip on the Amazon snow melt product!

LOL - and I’m guilty of this too. The sentences are too wordy. Write the sentence and then go back and eliminate words that are not needed.
For example:
Instead of:
Please Don’t Walk on Landscaping: In winter, it’s VERY slippery. Please be careful out there! We can’t/shouldn’t put ice on it as it kills the grass.

Do NOT walk on yard in winter.


Well, I guess I am a little wordy. I don’t want to come across as bossy or a manual filled with “rules.” I like to give a sense of “why.”

Only got three house rules. Turn off the AC/heating when out, shut it after 22:00 and only smoke on the patio. No need for wordy explanations :slightly_smiling_face:


1 Like

Unfortunately the guests will stop reading.

For many hosts, all those wordy “rules” are born of a need to try to control guests. And lets face it, the rules are for hosts, not for guests so guests tend to skim them at best. As a guest I avoid listings that bang on and on about things and especially that have long lists of “rules.”