How to choose an avalanche shovel


HOW TO CHOOSE AN AVALANCHE SHOVEL

An avalanche shovel is an essential part of your backcountry safety kit list, necessary for digging victims out during avalanche rescue. 


A durable shovel and correct shovelling technique can dramatically reduce rescue time and can also be used for checking snow stability. During an avalanche, the once-fluffy powder, packs together quickly making digging into it harder as it becomes more like shovelling concrete than snow. As a result, a proper avalanche shovel along with methods such as a chopping and dragging are better, more efficient avalanche rescue techniques, than standard shovelling. 

Material

Although plastic shovels are available, metal has the best strength-to-weight ratio making more efficient and successful for snow removal. Aluminium is often used. 

Blade Size and Shapes

Avalanche shovel blades are available in different shapes and sizes depending on the user and their needs. Smaller blades are easier to manoeuvre but less efficient at chopping the snow, and the moving it. Larger blades require more strength to operate, leaving you tired more quickly. Many shovels are also made to function like a hoe, allowing a good amount of chop and drag, as well as transforming into a traditional shovel.  The blade can be flat or curved; a flat blade will help you create a smooth snow pit walls. 

Handle and Grips

Look for slip-proof grips for easy handling and your shovel should always easily fit in your backpack. Many shovels have telescoping handles for leverage and manoeuvrability in small spaces.  

 

It’s vital your shovel fits well in your hands. T-shaped and I-shaped grips tend to be lighter and more compact, while d-shaped grips can be easily to use with mittens and gloves. 

Weight

While a lightweight shovel is a more attractive prospect, it’s important your shovel is durable and dependable.