One surefire way to cut through the ice on your steps and front walkway this Winter is by using salt. While too much salt can contribute to elevated salt levels in soils, which can hurt vegetation and animal habitats, most of the harm seen with this level of salt use can be attributed to salting roadways, not small sections of steps or pathways.
You can also try using a shovel to chip away at ice, or covering ice with sand. Better safe than sorry, though: my grandmother fell and broke her hip on an icy path at her farm a few years back, and since then has been extra vigilant about salting her paths.
Source: Flickr User Playful Librarian