Skiing can provide endless amounts of action and excitement, but with that comes a need for safety. You should always wear a helmet at all times regardless of your ability level and skiing style. It’s a great first line of defense against both injuries and accidents. However, you should also be prepared for avalanches as well.
One critical piece of equipment that every backcountry skier should bring with them on their treks is an avalanche shovel. The packable tools are useful for a variety of reasons, but they are especially useful because they can save your life in the event of an avalanche.
We’ll take a peek at some of the best avalanche shovels below so you can make an informed choice and be prepared for the winter months.
- The Overmont Aluminum Snow Shovel is a top choice. Its 3-piece design makes it adjustable and packable to meet a variety of conditions. This is a versatile choice that can be used during winter and beyond.
- For a highly portable option that’s great for backcountry ski trips, take a look at the Black Diamond Transfer Shovel. This option has a rugged, durable design for long-term use.
- If you want an avalanche shovel that will provide you with more than just a means to dig out of the snow, check out the Demon Escape Ally Shovel. This option comes with a snow pick, snow saw, and thermometer.
Who Should Get This?
If you’re a backcountry skier, you need to be educated on and prepared for anything that might come your way. One of the worst things that can occur off-piste is an avalanche. While the moving mountains of snow can be unstoppable, if you want to stand any chance for survival if you encounter one, you need the proper equipment. An avalanche shovel can allow you to dig yourself or your friends out of a slide.
These portable shovels are not just for skiers. If you live in any location that sees considerable snow, having an avalanche shovel in your car can prove useful if you get stuck or have to dig through slush or ice. They are portable, affordable, and a highly recommended accessory out in the backcountry. If you’re an inbounds skier and just visiting from a warmer location, you probably won’t need an avalanche shovel.
Best Avalanche Shovel: What to Consider?
While you could, in theory, use any type of shovel or digging device to burrow through snow and debris, the options you’ll find here are built specifically to allow you to be able to carry them while you’re skiing. You aren’t going to want a huge shovel on your back while you’re cruising down the slopes. As such, a shovel that’s smaller in size and built for such a purpose is ideal. All of the shovels you’ll see below are collapsible or portable enough to take skiing.
Even though an avalanche shovel may be small in size, you still need it to be strong. The snow you will encounter if you have to dig through an avalanche is much different than freshly fallen powder. It can be more like digging through rock or concrete. A flimsy little snow shovel just won’t do. The options you’ll find on this list are made from strong, durable materials that will last for years.
Similar to size considerations, an adjustable handle is a nice feature to look for in an avalanche shovel. That is because it makes it easier to pack and ski because you can make the shovel smaller for more leverage when digging through snow. Look for shovels that have several handle size adjustments, or at least a removable handle to make it easier to pack.
You might not think that a shovel could have additional features, but some options actually do. If you want more tools in one, look for a shovel that also can function as an avalanche probe or ice pick. A thermometer or snow saw is nice as well.
Best Avalanche Shovel: Our Picks
The Overmonth Aluminum Snow Shovel is a great all-around avalanche shovel that will prove extremely useful if you ever encounter an avalanche. It’s an affordable option that skiers can enjoy, but it’s also great for anyone who lives in a location where the flakes fall regularly. The unique tool features a collapsible handle that can adjust from 26 to 32 inches, allowing you extra leverage when you need it, and a smaller size for packing.
In addition, this comes with a strong-but-lightweight aluminum construction so you can easily strap it to your pack without concern. It weighs only 1.3 pounds and the anodized coating makes it durable as well. This shovel also comes with a free ice scraper that you can throw in the car. It’s also available in several different colors.
- Adjustable handle
- Strong aluminum construction
- Comes with ice scraper
- A little longer than other options
Another great option that’s perfect for backcountry skiing is the Black Diamond Transfer Shovel. This model has a small blueprint that’s easy to carry on your pack or stow in the car. It has an aluminum scoop with an 0.3 gallon capacity, making it an efficient and effective snow shovel. The handle is fully adjustable and can even be removed if you want to go smaller. This one is lightweight, ergonomical, and a favorite among skiers.
- Small profile
- Aluminum blade
- Adjustable handle
- Handle is not very long if you need leverage
The Demon Escape Ally Shovel is another great avalanche shovel that comes with a few additional features that make it stand out. It has a forged aluminum shaft/blade, which makes it strong and lightweight, and the handle is fully adjustable. Extra features include a thermometer, snow pick handle, and hidden snow saw. This is the multi-tool avalanche shovel option that’s extremely effective.
- Adjustable handle
- Additional features add value
Useful Tips & Resources
Everyone knows how to use a shovel. However, the avalanche shovels listed above are not just for digging. You can also use them to check snow conditions, build a shelter, get a vehicle unstuck, and other purposes. Here is a good video on how to use a shovel to conduct important snowpack tests to check avalanche conditions.
You don’t have to carry a snow shovel with you if you ski at the resort. However, if you venture into the backcountry, I would highly recommend it. These tools can save your life in the case of an emergency, and are useful in a variety of other situations as well. The options you’ll see here are some of the best avalanche shovels money can buy.
Have you ever seen an avalanche in person? What was the experience like? Let us know in the comments below!