A Historical Look at Rooftop Snow Management

When I have a conversation with people I’m just meeting for the first time, “what do you do for work?” is always one of the questions that pops up. After I say, “I’m in Marketing for Alpine SnowGuards – a company that manufactures snow guards”….the next question I’m asked: “What’s a snow guard?”

It’s actually a great question – I mean, how many of you, if not in the roofing industry whatsoever, would know what snow guards are?

I find it intriguing that for over 300 years, people have been using varying forms of snow guards to manage the snow on their rooftops, in order to help increase the friction of their roofing material, while allowing the snow to stay up there and melt off slowly, rather than come barreling off in the form of a roof avalanche, putting people, pets, landscaping, and anything else that might be in the area immediately surrounding a home, in harm’s way.

The use of non “modern” snow guards is believed to have started in the Swiss Alps and Scandinavian countries, where snow accumulates rapidly and stays around for a very long time (much like many places in the United States, Canada, and Europe).

Objects found in nature, like rocks placed all over the roof, evenly spaced (pad-style snow guards), and branches or logs (fence-style snow guards), were used as a very effective way to control the snow and ice as it slowly melted from the roof.

In fact, some countries are still using things like logs, branches, and rocks to help manage the movement of the accumulated snow load on their roofs. They may look odd, but the idea was actually a smart solution to a very real problem.

It wasn’t until over 120 years ago, in 1897, that modern snow guards were invented by Dr. M. Halliday. Dr. Halliday was the owner of a roofing company in New York City, and was the inventory of what he sold under the name of “Dugan’s Patent Snow Guards” to the professionals in the slate and tin roofing industries. (Not sure why he didn’t name them “Halliday’s Patent Snow Guards”, but I guess that’s none of my business).

The first building to reportedly have his snow guards installed is the historic Bellevue Hospital in New York City. The original Bill of Sale can be seen below.

Bellevue hospital, built in 1736 on the city common (now New York City Hall) still stands today (neat note: the first ever ambulance service started at Bellevue Hospital in 1869).

The snow guards of today are similar in nature to those of the late 1800’s – they have the same purpose: to manage the snow and ice on a roof in a way that will allow it to shed off in a controlled fashion, not as a sudden avalanche. Today, however, there are more than just the pad style that Dr. Halliday used to manufacture.

At Alpine SnowGuards, we know that different areas of the country, just as different roof types, require different solutions. That’s what we offer traditional pad-style snow guards, as well as pipe-style snow guards, fence-style snow guards, and even snow guards designed specifically for use on solar arrays.

Check them out, we know you’ll like what you see, and we also know that while we have a snow management solution for every roof type, we also have a solution for every taste, available in many fabrication, finish, and color options, so you’ll be able to complement, or match your roofing material while taming that accumulated snow.

So, the next time you drive through a neighborhood, a town, a city, or anywhere else for that matter, make sure to look up! See what’s on the roofs of the buildings – we bet you’ll be surprised at how many snow guards you’ll see!

Have questions? Let us know – that’s what we’re here for!

For an immediate layout & project pricing, check out our Online Project Calculator!

We keep snow in its place





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Alpine SnowGuards®  designs, engineers, and manufactures snow management systems from our facilities in Morrisville, VT. We work closely with leading roofing contractors, engineering firms, developers, and roofing manufacturers to ensure we deliver quality products that do what we say they’ll do.

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