5 Best Avalanche Probes for Skiing

Avalanches are one of the most common obstacles that skiers face out in the backcountry. Luckily, there are many modern tools made to combat them. One such item, which is extremely useful for finding those trapped in an avalanche, is a probe.

I’ve been in many challenging situations as a skier, but luckily I have yet to be in an avalanche. I still pay close attention to the snow conditions and take safety gear with me in the backcountry. I know what to look for in a top avalanche probe. 

The Backcountry Access BCA Stealth is my pick for the best avalanche probe of the season. This is a collapsible option that you can easily take with you, and it features a reliable and sturdy design. 

There are several other good avalanche probes available, and I’ll provide you with all the best of them in this post. I want to make sure you stay safe when you venture into avalanche territory, and having a probe is one way to do that. 

Let’s get after it.

Who Should Get This

Anyone trekking out into the backcountry needs a reliable probe. The items are often overlooked, but they are paramount when locating someone caught up in an avalanche. 

If you travel off-piste with others, make sure you have one in your pack. The only people who likely won’t need one are those who tend to stay on groomed runs or ride far away from any avalanche danger.

I think that anyone who carries a backpack when they ski should throw in an avalanche probe just for good measure. You never know when you might be able to help out, and these items can save somebody’s life. 

Avalanche probes work by poking through the snow after a slide to try and locate a person trapped underneath. Most of them are collapsible in design, and you simply lock the probe into a straight length and then poke it into the snow.

Generally, the longer, the better. The majority of avalanche probes on the market come in a length of 240 centimeters, which seems to be the industry standard. That’s the shortest I would recommend, but you can always go longer.

Deploying an avalanche probe is really easy. Most models come in a collapsible design that you simply put together when you want to use it. This is very similar to a tent pole, and you slide the sections into one another.

Best Avalanche Probe for Skiing: Top Picks

Here are my top picks for the best avalanche probes for skiing. Every model you see here has a reliable design and sturdy construction to work effectively. 

1. Backcountry Access BCA Stealth

  • Best for: Overall 
  • Key features: Durable, reliable, strong construction, collapsible, measuring marks
  • Length: 240 cm
  • Materials: Aluminum or Steel  
  • Cost: $$

The Backcountry Access BCA Stealth is my pick for the best avalanche probe of the year. This is an excellent option all-around and is recommended. 

This model has a strong tip and is quite long. That enables it to push into the ground quickly and find anyone buried underneath. It also comes with visible laser-etched depth marks so you can always keep track of how far down you’re looking.

The Stealth 240 also gets high grades for how easy it is to assemble right out of the box, as well as how quickly it can be put together when you’re out on the mountain. 

The aluminum option isn’t as strong as the steel, but they both work great. 

2. TerraWest Core 240 

  • Best for: Budget Option 
  • Key features: Affordable, collapsible, durable, tensioning system, large tip
  • Length: 240 cm 
  • Materials: Aluminum 
  • Cost: $

The TerraWest Core 240 is another solid avalanche probe and is recommended for any skier on a budget. 

It comes with a strong but lightweight aluminum construction and has a tensioning system that lets you easily snap everything into place when needed. 

You also get a large probe tip that increases durability and effectiveness. 

It’s a little less durable than heavy-duty models but will still work well under most circumstances. 

3. Ortovox Alu 240 PFA 

  • Best for: Construction 
  • Key features: strong construction, quick setup, visible depth markings, large tip, intuitive adjustment system
  • Length: 240 cm
  • Materials: Aluminum 
  • Cost: $$

Though a bit bigger and a tad less portable than the other options on this list, the Ortovox Alu 240 is a large, sturdy probe for skiers who value tough design. 

Not only will the aluminum construction hold up to harsh weather or tough environments, but the large 11-mm probe can push through snowpacks with ease.

At the forefront of this well-made device is the excellent assembly system that’s easy to both set up and collapse.

It’s a little large for lightweight packing but is very effective in the field. 

4. MSR Striker 240 

  • Best for: Lightweight 
  • Key features: Lightweight, dual-diameter construction, corrosion-resistant, fast deployment 
  • Length: 240 cm 
  • Materials: Aluminum 
  • Cost: $$ 

The MSR Striker 240 is a lightweight probe that makes for an excellent option on backcountry excursions. 

Its lighter weight makes it easy to throw in your backpack, but it still delivers reliable performance, thanks to a strong dual-diameter construction. 

The aluminum design adds strength while also helping to make it corrosion-resistant for dependable use in the long run. 

It’s not the strongest option on the list, but it is the lightest. 

5. SnowBigDeal American Avalanche Probe 

  • Best for: Extended Length 
  • Key features: Extended length, lightweight, durable, comes with carry bag, easy to assemble 
  • Length: 305 cm
  • Materials: Aluminum 
  • Cost: $ 

The SnowBigDeal American Avalanche Probe is my recommended option for anyone looking for a little extra length. 

This one is 305 cm long, making it longer than any other options on the list. This gives you an extended range to find anyone buried in the snow. 

It has a lightweight but strong aluminum construction that will hold up well under heavy use and also comes with a carry bag, making it easy to transport. 

A longer probe can be more challenging to control, but that’s not a huge deal. 

How to Choose an Avalanche Probe for Skiing

This section will provide you with some important things to keep in mind when choosing an avalanche probe for skiing. 

Weight and Size

First, you need to consider your probe’s weight. Every seasoned backcountry skier knows that adding weight to your bag matters. Do your best to get something that’s sturdy but still light enough to carry around as you traverse uncharted areas. 

In that same vein, you also want your probe to be a certain length. If buried in an avalanche, most people will sit roughly 80 inches under the snow. As such, your probe should be between 95 and 118 inches.

Material

When picking a probe, you have the choice of getting a carbon, stainless steel, or aluminum option. Carbon is the lightest of the three, while stainless steel is the heaviest. That’s why so many beginners choose to take carbon on their trips. 

However, it’s also worth noting that stainless steel is the most durable, with aluminum sitting somewhere in the middle. Don’t be afraid to try different builds until you get the strength and weight you can handle.

Ease of Use

Most of the time, you’ll use a probe out in harsh, unforgiving conditions. That’s why it’s essential to get something you can easily deploy. Buy a probe that you can “whip” out or pick a string/cable option that instantly clicks together. 

While there are some ski pole hybrid options, such models are too slow to operate in the event of a real avalanche. You want something you can take out and assemble right away. All of the options here feature quick setup designs. 

Useful Tips & Resources

Avalanches are extremely dangerous. You always need to be prepared when heading out into the backcountry. Though many think they can brave it alone, it’s always better to understand basic safety tips and know what to do should something go wrong.

It’s also important to note that traversing the backcountry even in the best conditions is not easy. There’s a lot you need to know, especially if you’re new to the discipline. Consulting this video will help you get started.

Final Verdict 

The Backcountry Access BCA Stealth is my pick for the best overall avalanche probe of the season. This is a lightweight and sturdy model that will give you a good length to reach anyone trapped under the snow. 

If you are skiing anywhere with avalanche danger, you need a good avalanche probe. All the models you find here are top of the line and will give you reliable performance when you need it most.

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