Have you ever wondered what you would do if a friend was swept away in an avalanche in the backcountry? Or how you could even prevent such a frightening, yet not uncommon, occurrence to begin with? Like with beacons and ski helmets, every backcountry skier should have a sturdy, reliable avalanche shovel. Beyond avalanche rescue missions, an avalanche shovel can be used as a preventative tool, allowing you to check the stability of the snow for avalanche danger and avoid catastrophe before it hits. But how do you know what the best avalanche shovel is for you?

Here, at The Adventure Junkies, we want to help you limit your choices when selecting the best avalanche shovel. We’ll discuss the main features that you should consider, explain why those features are important, and review a variety of avalanche shovels to help you find the best one for you.

 

 

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST AVALANCHE SHOVEL

PICTURE
AVALANCHE SHOVEL
BEST USE
HANDLE
GRIP
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
AVALANCHE SHOVEL
BEST USE
HANDLE
GRIP
PRICE
RATING
Black Diamond Evac

Overall
Telescoping
D-grip
$$$
5
Backcountry Access B52

Overall
Collapsible
D-grip
$$$
5
Ortovox Beast Saw

Overall
Telescoping
T-grip
$$$
5
Ortovox Kodiak

Overall
Telescoping
D-grip
$$$
4.5
Voile TelePro

Budget
Telescoping
D-grip
$
5
Backcountry Access B-1 EXT Bomber
Budget
Telescoping
T-grip
$
4.8
K2 Rescue Shovel

Rescue/Snow Pit Combo
Collapsible
L-grip
$$
4.8
Backcountry Access RS EXT

Rescue/Snow Pit Combo
Telescoping
L-grip
$$
5
Black Diamond Deploy
Rescue/Snow Pit Combo
Telescoping
D/T- hyrbrid grip
$$
4
G3 AviTech

Rescue/Snow Pit Combo
Telescoping
T-grip but with D-grip attachment
$$
4

 

 

AVALANCHE SHOVELS 101

 

5 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST AVALANCHE SHOVEL

 

1. MATERIAL

The material of shovel is one of the best ways to narrow down your options when selecting the best avalanche shovel for you. If the shovel is made of inferior materials, it will break and become useless during a rescue mission. Most avalanche shovels are made of one of three types of materials: aluminum, plastic, or steel.

 

ALUMINUM

Aluminum is—hands down—the best material for an avalanche shovel. It allows the user to engage in the chopping action that is essential for rescuing a victim of an avalanche. It is stronger and will last longer than plastic. It is also lighter weight than steel and is often fabricated from the same material that it used for bike frames and airplanes.

 

PLASTIC

In most cases, plastic avalanche shovels are not recommended. Plastic avalanche shovels have the tendency to break in extreme cold and when the blade hits debris while digging. The only benefit to carrying a plastic avalanche shovel is that it may be very lightweight, but in an emergency it will not be a good selection.

 

STEEL

Steel shovels are extremely durable, but they are also extremely heavy. Most backcountry skiers prefer the lighter weight of heat-treated alloys over the heavier weight of a steel shovel.

 

2. BLADE SIZE

Blade size is a key component to selecting the best avalanche shovel for you. Many backcountry skiers prefer a larger blade, so they can move more snow. The downside to that is that—in an emergency—the person shoveling may get tired faster. The alternative is a smaller blade that is easier to handle. While a smaller blade will let you shovel snow for a longer period of time without experiencing fatigue, it is also less efficient at chopping away at dense snowpack and removes less snow than a larger blade.

It is also important that the blade’s size does not prevent you from storing your avalanche shovel inside your ski backpack. If it is attached to the outside of the pack, it will get torn off during an avalanche, making it useless.

 

3. BLADE SHAPE

The blade shape is a matter of preference. There are two main shapes—flat or curved—with benefits to each. Either shape of blade can also be serrated. A serrated blade will cut through cement-like snow, ice, and avalanche debris better.

 

FLAT BLADE

A flat blade is best for digging snow pits. Backcountry skiers dig snow pits to check the stability of the snowpack, letting them know the likelihood of an avalanche. The ability to take such precautions is as important as a good ski helmet. The cleaner and smoother the wall, the easier it is to see how stable it is.

 

CURVED BLADE

A curved blade is best for avalanche rescue since it will remove more snow with each scoop than a flat blade.

 

4. SHAFT

The shaft of an avalanche shovel can be extendable or telescoping, allowing for greater leverage, or it can be a fixed length. A longer shaft will give more leverage, while a shorter shaft will give greater maneuverability.

 

5. GRIP

There are three types of grips on the handle of an avalanche shovel: T-grip, L-grip, and D-grip. The T-grip is very effective and also most common type of avalanche shovel grip. The L-grip is the lightest and most compact type of avalanche shovel grip. The D-grip is the most ergonomic shovel handle grip. It is the easiest to hold when wearing mittens, but it also takes up the most space in your ski backpack because it is bulkier and heavier than the other grips.

 

avalanche shovel to have for snow activity

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/cylonphoto

 

AVALANCHE SHOVEL REVIEWS

 

1. BEST AVALANCHE SHOVELS FOR OVERALL USE

BLACK DIAMOND EVAC

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Avalanche rescue, snow pits, backcountry jumps

MATERIAL: Aluminum

BLADE SIZE AND SHAPE: Large and Flat

SHAFT: Telescoping

HANDLE: D-grip

PROS: Converts to hoe, lightweight, collapses small, good construction

CONS: Gets stuck extending to full length occasionally, doesn’t fit in all ski backpacks

 

 

 

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS B52

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Avalanche rescue, snow pits, snow shelters, backcountry jumps, dig out snowmobile

MATERIAL: Aluminum

BLADE SIZE AND SHAPE: Large and Flat

SHAFT: Collapsible

HANDLE: D-grip

PROS: Easy to use with mittens, durable, one of the largest blades available so moves lots of snow

CONS: Bulky, heavy

 

 

 

ORTOVOX BEAST SAW

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Avalanche rescue, snow pits

MATERIAL: Aluminum

BLADE SIZE AND SHAPE: Large and Curved

SHAFT: Telescoping

HANDLE: T-grip

PROS: Integrated serrated carbon steel saw, serrated on top of blade so boots won’t slip when digging

CONS: Heavy

 

 

 

ORTOVOX KODIAK

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Avalanche rescue, snow pits, backcountry jumps

MATERIAL: Aluminum

BLADE SIZE AND SHAPE: Large and Semi-flat, serrated

SHAFT: Telescoping

HANDLE: D-grip

PROS: Converts to hoe, large handle works well with mittens, quick assembly,

CONS: Expensive

 

 

 

 

2. BEST AVALANCHE SHOVELS FOR THE VALUE

VOILE TELEPRO

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Avalanche rescue, snow pit

MATERIAL: Aluminum

BLADE SIZE AND SHAPE: Mid-size and Flat

SHAFT: Telescoping

HANDLE: D-grip

PROS: Lightweight, slotted holds for rescue sled

CONS: None could be found

 

 

 

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS B-1 EXT BOMBER

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Avalanche rescue, snow pits, backcountry jumps, snow shelters

MATERIAL: Aluminum

BLADE SIZE AND SHAPE: Large and Flat

SHAFT: Telescoping

HANDLE: T-grip

PROS: Lightweight, slotted holds for rescue sled, fits in most ski backpacks, durable, easy to breakdown

CONS: Ice can get stuck in the locking mechanism

 

 

 

 

3. BEST AVALANCHE SHOVELS FOR RESCUE/SNOW PIT COMBO

K2 RESCUE SHOVEL

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Avalanche rescue, snow pits, backcountry jumps

MATERIAL: Aluminum

BLADE SIZE AND SHAPE: Large and Curved

SHAFT: Collapsible

HANDLE: L-grip

PROS: Converts to hoe mode, fits in most ski backpacks, slotted holds for rescue sled

CONS: None could be found

 

 

 

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS RS EXT

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Avalanche rescue, snow pits, backcountry jumps, snow shelters

MATERIAL: Aluminum

BLADE SIZE AND SHAPE: Large and Curved

SHAFT: Telescoping

HANDLE: L-grip

PROS: Converts to hoe mode, durable, lightweight

CONS: None could be found

 

 

 

BLACK DIAMOND DEPLOY

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Avalanche rescue, snow pits, backcountry jumps, snow shelters

MATERIAL: Aluminum

BLADE SIZE AND SHAPE: Large and Curved

SHAFT: Telescoping

HANDLE: D/T-hybrid grip

PROS: Quick assembly, fits in most ski backpacks

CONS: Handle too short for some skiers, slightly heavy

 

 

 

G3 AVITECH

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Avalanche rescue, snow pits, snow shelters

MATERIAL: Aluminum

BLADE SIZE AND SHAPE: Large and Flat

SHAFT: Telescoping

HANDLE: T-grip but with D-grip attachment

PROS: Quick assembly, lightweight, slotted for rescue sled

CONS: None could be found

About The Author

Snow Sports Writer

Dee is a freelance writer and an outdoors enthusiast. She is an avid skier but can also be found on the mountain trails during the summer, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, and trail running. Living in Colorado allows her to follow her dreams—skiing every chance she gets—with her two adventuresome children, her husband, and her spirited Weimaraner.

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