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Choosing an Avalanche Shovel

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Choosing an Avalanche Shovel

Avalanche Shovels: Improve safety in the backcountry!

If you ski, snowboard or snowmobile in the backcountry, avalanche safety gear is essential. Every person in your group must pack a shovel, a beacon and a probe. Of course knowing how to use this equipment can make the difference between survival and disaster. With the right shovel and the right technique, you can dig avalanche victims out of the snow faster, greatly increasing their chances of survival. Your shovel also comes in handy for digging pits to test snow stability, building jumps and digging out your snowmobile or other vehicles.

Consider the following factors when choosing an avalanche shovel:

Material: metal shovels, typically aluminum, offer the best strength-to-weight ratio. Plastic shovels are lighter but aren’t suitable for avalanche rescue situations.

Shaft Material: a lightweight carbon shaft is an excellent option but they’re more expensive.

Blade Shape and Size: larger blades can move more snow, but they require more effort, causing greater fatigue. Smaller shovels allow for faster and longer shoveling sessions. Try different sizes to find the most effective one for you.

Packability: the shovel blade should fit easily into your pack. Consider blade features like flat surfaces for smooth pit walls, serrations for cutting through snow and ice, and holes for building snow anchors and rescue sleds.

Handle and Grip: experiment with different handle types to find the best fit for you while digging. Telescoping shafts offer more leverage when extended, while shorter shafts are more convenient in tight spaces. Grip types vary. T- and L-shaped grips are lighter and more compact, and D-shaped grips are larger and more comfortable (especially if you wear mittens).

Weight: light shovels are preferable for touring, but prioritize reliability and effectiveness in rescue situations. Opt for a slightly heavier shovel if you’re unsure, as it makes chopping, digging, and moving snow easier and more efficient.

By selecting the right shovel and familiarizing yourself with strategic shoveling techniques, you’ll save time and energy during rescue operations.


The Advantages of a Perforated Blade

A shovel with holes in the blade is often referred to as a perforated or serrated blade shovel.

This design offers unique functionality:

Snow Anchor Construction: holes in the blade allow you to build snow anchors more easily. By threading cord or rope through the holes and burying the shovel blade in the snow, you can create a secure anchor point for securing tents, tarps, or sleds.

Rescue Sled Construction: in emergency situations, a shovel with holes in the blade can be used to construct a rescue sled. By lashing together multiple shovels or using additional materials like poles or branches, you can create a makeshift sled to transport injured individuals over snow-covered terrain.

Improvised Snow Shelter: when building snow shelters such as igloos or snow caves, a shovel with holes in the blade can be helpful for shaping and compacting snow blocks. The holes allow you to grip and maneuver the shovel more easily.

Ice and Snow Removal: the serrated or perforated blade design of the shovel helps cut through compacted snow and ice. The holes also help to reduce the overall weight of the shovel, making it easier to handle during prolonged use.

Drainage and Water Management: in wet snow conditions or when dealing with slushy snowmelt, the holes in the shovel blade can help drain excess water, preventing it from accumulating and adding weight to the shovel.

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