Lalley: The continued curse of snow gates — and Pat O'Brien

Do they really work? Depends on where you live apparently, and the earth's magnetic field.

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A snow gate in use on a city plow on the streets of Sioux Falls.
Contributed / City of Sioux Falls video image

I’m a snow gate denier.

That’s no surprise, given that I’m on the record many times, over the course of several years, since the idea was first introduced to Sioux Fallsians more than a decade ago.

It’s not that snow gates aren’t a good concept. Of course they are.

Nobody ever looked out the window after the plows roll through their neighborhood and thought, “Awesome! I get to attack a frozen wall with a pick ax and a bucket and haul away a couple thousand pounds of ice chunks.”

That was the promise, right? That if you, Steve and Sally Sioux Falls, just clear out your bit of the driveway, the masterful operators of this magic blade will simply scrape away the tailings created by the plow and deposit them on the other side.


I mean you can watch the video and see how cool that is.

Except when it isn’t, which apparently is every time, in the tony southeast Sioux Falls neighborhood that is LalleyLand.

I’m sure there’s a good reason for it, like the earth’s magnetic field or the prevailing winds or the curse put upon me by famed sportscaster, Sioux Falls native and buddy to the stars Pat O’Brien.

These things are going to happen. It’s an occupational hazard.

Pat O'Brien memoir cover.jpg

(NOTE: Careful readers will recall that Mr. O'Brien and I had what one might call a “professional misunderstanding” several years ago. So I feel obligated to note that I still have a personalized copy of his memoir “I’ll Be Back Right After This,” in our library. And, if I may add, it is a lovely piece of work.)

Now, I’m not going to stretch credulity to suggest the snow gates never work. Because clearly they do. For instance, my neighbors across the street are left with but a dribble of snow pebbles across their drive.

I often marvel at their good fortune when I’m dragging a 20 pound boulder of compacted snow up the growing bank, in a Sisyphean winter tale of woe.

Many of you are thinking at this point, “For the love of Peter, Paul and Mary, just get a snowblower already.”


And that’s fair, to a point. It shouldn’t be a requirement of suburban life that all residents must purchase, store and maintain yet another internal combustion engine, just to be able to get out of the driveway.

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Contributed / City of Sioux Falls video image

I’m still an able-bodied dude and it’s a perverted point of pride that I’ve been able to make it this far without actually owning a snowblower.

Plus, I’ve got back up. There is now a teenage boy living under this roof with a nasty computer habit that needs feeding. Twenty bucks still means something to him.

My Catholic school math tells me it’s going to take a lot of snowfalls to get to even the minimum price of a new snowblower.

So I will continue my snow gate denial.

Unlike the flat earthers, the 2020 election protesters and whatever that is with the birds, I have demonstrable facts on my side.

Also, we got new neighbors recently.

They have a snowblower.


Let’s just hope they don’t know Pat O’Brien.

Patrick Lalley is the engagement editor and reporter for Sioux Falls Live. Reach him at
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