The rule of thumb in the mountains for snow removal contracts run from approx. November 1st - April 30th, which guarantees service throughout the winter season. So now is a reminder not to wait much longer to get your mind made up and your choices made on who and what kind of service your personal residence needs or your commercial business needs?

You know as we do that winter could come on quick and we as mountain people need to always be prepared. So, for you new comers to our beautiful mountains please be wise and start your plans now.

When it comes to winter, choosing a snow removal contractor you can count on is important. Unfortunately, some are better than others. The trick is to find a snow removal contractor you can trust. Here are seven tips to keep in mind that should help you decide.

Some snow removal contractors are definitely more reliable than others. But for you, as a customer, reliability should mean much more than just showing up on time. It also means conducting your business in a professional manner.

Ensure they have the proper credentials, check their background.

It’s important that a general snow removal contractor has in their general liability insurance a clause that specifically covers snow removal operations.

What's more, the municipality where you live should license your prospective snow removal company, if it’s required by law. A call to your local City Hall can answer the question quickly.

Vehicles must be registered. Ask for proof.

Ask them to provide references:

This is a given. Always check references!

If a company seems reluctant to give you names and numbers of previous customers, it's a red flag and suggests they have something to hide.

Be certain they don’t sub-contract out their work:

Sometimes companies sub-contract work to smaller companies, which allows them to cover a larger territory.

Be certain before signing a contract that the company who will do the work is the same one as the name on the contract.

Occasionally, sub-contractors may not live up to the promises you received before signing on the dotted line.

After all the work you've done to secure the most reliable, responsible snow removal contractor in your area, consider becoming a regular customer next season if you're pleased with their service. Repeat customers are frequently offered a discount the following year, which is a plus.

This from the BBB:

If you plan on hiring a snow removal contractor instead of shoveling yourself, Better Business Bureau recommends the following:

Get several estimates. Prices can vary widely and are usually based on the amount of work involved in clearing your property. Remember that the least expensive estimate is not always the best choice.

Ask the contractor about additional charges and price options. Beside the quoted price, there may be some additional charges during large storms. After the snow reaches a certain depth, some snow removal contractors charge by the inch, so you?ll want to find out how the company calculates these charges. Other contractors may offer a fixed price for an entire season, regardless of the amount of snow (or lack of snow).

Make sure that you are aware of which services you are getting.

Find out exactly what is included in the estimate. 

Are the walks and steps included?

What about the cost of sand and/or salt? 

Will the company clear only after the storm, or during the snowfall as well? 

If the contractor has to come back more than once during the same storm, is there an additional charge?

Ask for references, and check them out.

Check with the Better Business Bureau for a Reliability Report on a contractor you are planning on hiring.

Do not agree to the terms of the contract over the telephone. The contractor should provide you with a written agreement.

Before signing the agreement, find out who is responsible for damages such as cracked driveways or broken gates.

Your expectations of your snow removal contractor should be realistic.  Keep in mind that a snowstorm makes traveling difficult for you and the contractor. During major snowstorms, it may take longer for the contractor to reach you and perform the contracted work.