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Ice damming is a ventilation of the attic problem but it is also tied to not enough insulation. The heat given off by the home heats the attic which then in turn melts the snow, which runs down the roof under the existing blanket of snow to the eave where it freezes to create ice dams. As long as heat leaves thru the attic (and is not cooled by attic ventilation) you will have ice dams, gutter or no gutter. Gutters just magnify the situation.

The electric heat tape typically does clip to the shingles and zig zag up and down the edge of the roof at the gutter. This is to only allow the melting water a path (a hole thru the ice for water to pass to the dripedge/gutter area) to be able to leave the roofing vs. pooling behind the ice and backing up under the shingle and yes! sometimes deep enought to get past the ice and water shield underlayment.

Look at insulating the attic better and ventilating the attic properly. A solid blank of snow all winter with now melting vs. spotty melting areas means you have a good balance. Why do you think some houses have a perfect foot of snow and others are patchy?
 
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