Following an avalanche, the average victim has about 15 minutes to survive. This means his group has 15 minutes to find his general location with a transceiver, probe the snow to get an exact location and shovel him out. After that, the chances are that they'll be shoveling to uncover a body. The backcountry shovel is a vital piece of gear and should be carried with you at all times when skiing, snowboarding or climbing in the backcountry where avalanche conditions exist. When picking out a shovel, you want something that's lightweight and compactable but you should never sacrifice quality and usability. Think about it this way. If you were buried in the snow, would you want your buddy using that tiny, flimsy plastic ultralight "scraper" to dig you out or would you hope that he had something a bit more substantial?
Tips & Warnings
Remember the bigger the head, the quicker you'll dig. Get as big a shovel as you can fit in your pack to provide the most efficient digging.
A longer shaft can make a shovel easier to use when standing up and can provide extra leverage.
Practice digging things out of the snow with the shovel before going into the backcountry. The more comfortable you are with it, the more effective you will be.
No amount of equipment can fully protect you from an avalanche. There is no substitution for proper preparation, skills and knowledge.
Don't travel in avalanche country on high-risk days and take avalanche safety courses for a better understanding of avalanche science and rescue.
Never travel into the backcountry without packing the following: avalanche beacon, shovel, probe and a partner with all the same equipment.
Article Written By Joe Fletcher
Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.