Snowy sidewalks are no big deal in themselves, but they become icy sidewalks after they've been walked on for a while, and those things are dangerous.When it's necessary to shovel on the Sabbath, I always do so, wearing socks on my hands as a shinnuy. I haven't asked a rabbi about this, and this is out of respect for the rabbinate--I want to save them the embarrassment of possibly giving the wrong answer.
As a side note, I once told a friend, former and (I hope) future hevruta, and ethical adviser about this. He (who lives in an apartment where the landlord is responsible for shoveling, so it's not his problem) said he thought this a fine idea. Since it's just me, he said, I should do it without any distinctive Jewish accessories visible. If, however, I were R' Gedalia Dov Schwartz, av beit din of the RCA and the Chicago Rabbinical Council, who lives a few blocks away, he'd advise me to do it looking like I was R' Gedalia Dov Schwartz so everyone would know it's OK. I take his point, although I should point out that if I were R' Gedalia Dov Schwartz, I wouldn't need his advice.One Sabbath morning in 2009, there was a layer of slush on the sidewalk. I ignored it, since it was the Sabbath, and what would the people coming to lunch think? By Sunday morning, the slush had turned into solid ice with footprints.
So let's imagine that someone had injured themselves on the ice that I piously left there, and let's further imagine that I'd passed away and had to face the Heavenly Tribunal.
(I assume the M"T are Orthodox Jews, among whom "very nice" means "yeah, right, whatever.") Right. Well, very nice. But from now on, I'm going to do what needs to be done and forgo the after-the-fact teshuvah.
Members of the Tribunal (M"T): Well, what about this Mr. McNotzreigh who got injured on your ice?
Me: Sorry about that, but only a little, since I was observing Shabbat.
M"T: Very nice.