Snow and ice management industry background

History of the Snow and Ice Management Industry

Over the past 15 years, leading North American snow contractors have improved their business practices resulting in significant risk reduction. This reduction includes alleviating risk for themselves, their employees, their clients (predominantly property managers), and most importantly insurance companies.

Risk reduction is an involved and complicated matter as it pertains to professional snow contractors. What follows is a short history of the snow industry, how contractors have dealt with risk mitigation, and the formation of an accredited program to ensure risk reduction in the snow industry.

Prior to the mid-1990s, snow removal was a secondary source of income for businesses — most commonly landscape firms — that were unable to perform their primary services during the winter months. Other professionals, such as paving contractors, sweeping contractors and general construction companies, also relied on snow as a winter income source. At the time, there were virtually no “snow only” contractors.

In September 1997, Lawn & Landscape published its first snow removal supplement. This supplement has since grown into a stand-alone publication that today is delivered to 30,000 contractors who perform snow and ice management services in the United States and Canada.

In its 15 years of publishing for the snow and ice management industry, GIE Media has helped shape the industry into a dynamic growth market that boasts not only $8 – $10 billion in annual revenues, but also a professionalism that surprises many outsiders.

Snow Magazine not only has helped educated professionals in print and online, but also through a variety of face-to-face educational events. Together, these resources have increased contractors’ overall business acumen and improved their risk-reduction practices.

Today, the professional snow and ice management industry is still predominantly made up of landscape
contractors (67%), with 21% stemming from other service disciplines and snow-only firms growing to 12%.

Snow contractors have implemented systems and procedures to eliminate risk. These include
documentation, technology, contracts, training, and education. As the industry leader, Snow Magazine
has provided much of this information and has taken the next steps to formalize that education to ensure
continued risk reduction in this industry.

 

Establishing the Accredited Snow Contractors Association

The Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) was born from Snow Magazine’s first Industry Summit held in September 2010. This open forum discussion led to Snow Magazine’s investigation into
the industry’s largest problem: insurance. Snow Magazine Publisher Kevin Gilbride led a small group of
volunteers to meet with the insurance industry on behalf of snow contractors.

In a year of research, meetings, and presentations, the group concluded that insurance was the “symptom," and not the “disease.” Many issues plague this industry, starting with the laws in both the U.S. and Canada. These laws drive insurance rates up and create imbalance, unfair competitive practices, and safety issues for our industry.

For example, a company with no experience can enter the industry and get low insurance rates since they have never had a claim, creating a safety issue for society. As claims come in, many turn out to be frivolous, but drive up rates for experienced contractors.

Recognizing that the outside world (property managers, insurance companies, and legislative bodies)

did not look favorably upon the snow and ice management industry, the ASCA took a very structured approach to change those perceptions.

This is why the ASCA was founded on four pillars.  These pillars are the foundation on which ASCA member companies base their business. It is these pillars that separate ASCA member companies from the rest of the pack.

  1. Written Industry Standards
  2. Education (ASCA-C)
  3. Verification
  4. Positive legislative change

These pillars are about snow and ice management companies managing their risk, while the ASCA team works to change the outside world and the laws.