Large clearing capacity (up to 72 tons of snow per hour)
Built-in halogen headlight
Tricky auto-turn feature
Inconvenient control panel placement
Imbalanced front end
The Wisconsin-based Ariens brand, which touts itself as the “King of Snow,” has been producing snow blowers, tractors, and other outdoor equipment since 1933. To see how accurate their self-professed title is, we picked up the Ariens Deluxe 28 and put it to work plowing the heavy early-season snowfall at our home high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Keep reading to see how the snow blower performed on our medium-length, steep driveway.
Setup/Delivery Process: A little involved
The delivery of the Ariens Deluxe wasn’t as straightforward as receiving a package from FedEx or UPS. Instead, we received a call from a regional delivery company to schedule an all-day delivery window during which we needed to be home.
Helpfully, the driver did call to let us know when he was close. Unfortunately, though, the driver wasn’t able to bring his large truck up our driveway and he had to leave the very large box at the bottom of our drive. Since the snow blower comes partially assembled, this meant bringing our tool set to the end of the driveway to finish assembling the snow blower and fill it with gas in order to drive it to our garage (it ships with oil already in the engine). While full assembly would have been much worse, it’s not the most convenient process, so you may want to consider visiting your local big box hardware store to see if they have it preassembled.
Design: Solid construction, confusing layout
The Ariens Deluxe 28 is a large-capacity, gas-fueled, two-stage snow blower. This means it comes with powered wheels (you don’t have to push it) and an auger-driven snow-clearing apparatus. Smaller (and cheaper) single-stage units aren’t meant for more than a few inches of snow on paved areas or decks, so if you deal with regular winter storms, you’re likely going to be shopping for a model like Ariens’.
Our house is situated 10,000 feet above sea level near the Continental Divide in the Rockies, so we typically get upwards of 300 inches of snow each year. The snowy season is long and consistent, so keeping up with snow removal is vital in maintaining a safe driveway. While it doesn’t snow every day, when storms do hit they can leave a foot or more of dense snow. The snowpack peaks in early April here and while our driveway isn’t huge—it’s roughly 1,500 square feet and 50 feet long—we have to throw the snow farther and higher each storm until the melt finally starts in late spring.
The whole concept of a snow blower is to throw snow from your driveway so you don’t have to modify your own truck or hire a contractor to plow. Plowing can damage your driveway and leave piles of debris and gravel that you have to deal with come spring. Additionally, small driveways with limited space and lots of snow can be tricky as you quickly run out of places to pile plowed snow. Snow blowers do a much better job of distributing snow thanks to their ability to throw it further away and in a variety of locations along the route of the blower.
The Ariens Deluxe 28 is fitted with a rotating chute (controlled by a rotating crank arm) that throws the snow up to 50 feet away. You have to reach a bit to get to the handle to rotate the chute, but you can control the angle of the top of the chute via a lever on the control board.
A note on the control board: this was a source of mild frustration for us. We’re not sure what the designers were thinking when they laid it out as the chute rotator is the most frequently adjusted control, yet it’s placed on the left side of the machine, so you have to reach across the control board for it since your right hand is your free hand while running the machine.
This might be hard to envision if you haven’t used a two-stage blower before, but basically, you operate the drivetrain/wheels with the left lever and the blower with the right-hand lever. If you engage both and are actively rolling and blowing, the right-hand lever will lock down as long as you keep the left lever engaged so you can use your right hand to adjust other controls without stopping. Thus, having the other controls on the left makes little sense.
This doesn’t make the machine unusable and you learn how to reach after a few uses, it just elicits some head-scratching and mild annoyance. Additionally, the reach seems unnecessary since we’ve used cheaper blowers that have the same tilt and rotation of the chute integrated into one control which makes adjustments faster and more intuitive.
Performance: Throws lots of snow quickly
Despite our gripes with the design, the Ariens Deluxe chucks snow and does it quickly. The snow blower is gas-powered, but a 120-volt electric push-button start ensures that the unit quickly starts—no matter how cold it is. After a medium-sized storm, say 5 inches of new snow, it took us about an hour to fully clear our driveway—and that’s with a lot of attention to detail. Doing the same job with our slightly smaller two-stage Troy-Bilt blower took us about 20 minutes longer and that unit failed to throw the snow as far as it has a 40-foot throwing distance versus the Ariens’ 50-foot maximum.
The combination of decent horsepower and a beefy, well-designed auger system made this unit satisfying to clear snow with. Even after bigger storms when we’d slam the auger into 12 or more inches of snow, it wouldn’t bog down unless the snow was heavily compacted. The same goes for hardened drifted snow; the auger was generally able to chop up chunks of dense snow and spit it out. It’s also worth noting that the auger axle is equipped with two shear bolts. In the event that something severely binds the auger, these are meant to snap before any damage is done to the mechanicals.
The combination of decent horsepower and a beefy, well-designed auger system made this unit satisfying to clear snow with.
Since we chop wood in our driveway, we did, of course, suck up a sizable piece of wood which bound the auger completely. We were relieved to see that the unit simply shut off at that point without shearing the bolt. We were able to then remove the wood with the engine off and quickly resume blowing. Our previous blower employed weaker shear pins and as a result, we spent several minutes each session replacing pins after seemingly minor conflicts with debris and even hard snow. Shear pins are a near-standard feature on blowers in this class, so it was a relief to have a burly unit (and backup shear bolts mounted to the blower) so we don’t have to walk on eggshells with it.
The unit is loud, like most snow blowers, since you’re standing above a combustion engine without a muffler. We found it slightly louder than our old, smaller blower, but not at the deafening level of a large chainsaw, for example. If using for long periods of time, hearing protection is definitely recommended.
Special Features: Confusing auto-turn, built-in light
One non-standard feature that we appreciate with this model is the built-in halogen headlight. We try to do most of our snow blowing in the morning, but sometimes you come home to a blown-in driveway and have no choice but to work after dark. The headlight isn’t massive, but it’s bright enough to see what you’re doing which allowed us to safely snow blow at night.
One non-standard feature that we appreciate with this model is the built-in halogen headlight.
While a nice idea, the auto-turn feature is something we’re fairly agnostic on after months of testing. Here’s how it appears to work and why Ariens included it: Since snow blowers only use two wheels on a fixed axle, you generally have to use some muscle to get the machine to turn. This unit, on the other hand, tries to sense when you’re turning and it uses a differential to stop the inside wheel from turning while the outside wheel still motors, assisting your turn.
In ideal conditions—when freshly fallen snow is evenly distributed on a level surface—the feature works great. We hardly needed to muscle the unit around, which was a major perk since it weighs more than us at 250 pounds. Snow blowing doesn’t always present perfect conditions, though.
Sometimes someone drives over snow before you get the chance to blow it or areas drift and, left unattended, they harden and create uneven snow. In situations like these, where the snow blower hits a hard patch on one side but not the other, the auto-turn feature can trigger and pull the unit in a direction you weren’t intending. Pushing through that requires a good amount of effort and if you don’t correct it, it can lead to a situation where the auto-turn is rapidly engaged and disengaged which can swing the snow blower pretty wildly.
While a nice idea, the auto-turn feature is something we’re fairly agnostic on after months of testing.
The auto-turn quirks are exacerbated on inclines and compounded even further when the snow blower is off balance. The front of the unit is also fairly light which seems like a good thing until you notice that it has a tendency to tip back toward the operator. This is obviously a known issue since Ariens actually sells a 10-pound add-on weight kit to combat the imbalance. It’s unclear why Ariens wouldn’t just make this part of the factory unit instead of leaving users to discover the balance issue, research a solution, and spend an additional $60 to install the add-on themselves.
Price: Good value for the power
The Ariens Deluxe 28 goes for $1,200. While it’s certainly an investment, it’s comparable to other name-brand snow blowers which come with similar features. If you need the power, this unit is well worth it despite a few small quirks. If you don’t think you need the capacity, Ariens and other manufacturers offer smaller two-stage units for less.
Ariens Deluxe 28 vs. Ariens Classic 24
While the Deluxe 28 is a great snow blower, it might be overkill for some residential applications. If your driveway is flat and you don’t get a lot of double-digit dumps of snow, the Classic 24 offers you the same all-steel Ariens quality for $400 less. You do lose some clearing capacity and a few inches off the tires, but if your driveway isn’t steep or subject to regular heavy snow, it should be able to handle whatever Mother Nature throws at you. It’s also about 40 pounds lighter and might be easier to wrangle for smaller users.
- Product Name Deluxe 28
- Product Brand Ariens
- Price $1,199.00
- Weight 249.8 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 58.6 x 29.9 x 45.3 in.
- Model Number 921046
- Engine Size 254cc (12 ft/lbs)
- Throwing Distance 3 ft to 50 ft
- Maximum Clearing Depth 16 in.
- Clearing Width 28 in.
- Warranty 3-year consumer, 90-day commercial