AVALANCHE SHOVEL GUIDE

FIND OUT WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK OUT FOR WHEN PURCHASING A HIGH-QUALITY AVALANCHE SHOVEL.

With the correct avalanche shovel and an optimum shoveling strategy, you can gain important lifesaving time after an avalanche accident. But what makes a good avalanche shovel? What construction and which functions does it need? Find out what matters now!

Avalanche safety equipment is essential for freeriders and ski tourers who go off-piste in unsecured terrain. An avalanche shovel is just as important in this regard as an avalanche transceiver or avalanche probe. The construction, functions and safety standards are of decisive importance when purchasing a shovel. In the ORTOVOX AVALANCHE SHOVEL GUIDE, Chris Semmel, mountain guide and trainer with the Verband deutscher Berg- und Skiführer (VDBS – German mountain and ski guide association) explains what makes a high-quality shovel and which features you should look out for. 


Shovel Shaft & Grip

  • ERGONOMIC GRIP

    The correct grip for every user: The D-grip is the “king of grips” when it comes to efficiency. It’s considered the most ergonomic grip on the market! In comparison, the T-grip Pro is more compact and lighter. It can be altered to suit left and right-handers too, and it offers the foundation for effective snow clearing. The hybrid grip guarantees optimum force transmission and a wide variety of grip positions for right and left-handers.  

  • TELESCOPIC SHAFT

    A telescopic shovel shaft provides greater leverage, thus enabling faster, more efficient shoveling.  Shovels with a telescopic shaft also have a smaller pack size and will fit in a touring backpack more easily.  

  • OVAL HANDLE CROSS-SECTION

    An oval shovel handle is significantly more stable than a round handle. An oval handle cross-section makes using the push button for sliding the telescopic shaft in and out easier and more intuitive.

  • RESCUE SLED FUNCTION

    The four drill holes can be used for assembling a rescue sled to transport the injured person in an emergency situation. 


Shovel Blade

  • LARGE BLADE VOLUME

    The shovel blade must be big enough to move lots of snow in a short time – but the blade volume must not be too large either, as otherwise the shovel strokes become too difficult. 

  • HIGH SIDEWALLS

    An elevated shovel edge means the snow stays on the shovel blade during shoveling and cannot slip off the sides. The high sidewalls therefore ensure more effective shoveling. 

  • CONVERT TO CLEARING FUNCTION

    You should be able to convert an avalanche shovel to use the clearing function with a single maneuver. Coupled with the correct shoveling strategy, this function facilitates better clearing in the second row, saving lifesaving time. 

  • SHARP SHOVEL CUTTING EDGE

    Avalanche snow is not like powder snow. A sharp, sturdy cutting edge penetrates hard, icy snow surfaces in the avalanche deposit zone more easily. This enables quicker and more efficient shoveling. 

  • ROBUST MATERIALS

    Robust, break-resistant material is what makes a high-quality avalanche shovel. We use various materials for our shovels: The extremely stable 5052 ALUMINUM is the first choice for many of our shovel blades. For our high-end products and for the majority of our shovel shafts, 6061 ALUMINUM T6 is used for its optimum weight-to-rigidity ratio. For our probes and the PRO LIGHT we use the high-quality and extremely stable 7075 ALUMINUM T6. 


Blade Volume

Be Quick

WITH LARGE BLADE VOLUME AND 90° CLEARING FUNCTION

Statistics show that the chances of surviving an avalanche burial fall dramatically after 15 minutes. In an emergency situation, time is therefore of the essence (see picture to the right). Using a carefully-conceived shovel and the correct shoveling strategy saves important time in an emergency situation.   

The average burial depth from which people are rescued alive is 50cm (statistics: Tschirky 2000). This requires the excavation of 1500 liters of snow! Saving time digging means increasing the chances of survival.

AVERAGE SHOVEL 2.1 l **

KODIAK: REGULAR MODE 3.1 l **

CLEARING FUNCTION 3.1 l **

The graphic shows the shoveling duration for different shovels. While it takes 11 minutes and 20 seconds of shoveling with an average shovel and a small blade volume, a shovel with optimum shovel blade volume reduces shoveling time to an average of 9 minutes and 56 seconds. By converting to clearing function mode, additional lifesaving time can be saved. Blade volume and clearing function play an important role in the event of an avalanche burial. If the blade volume is too small, not enough snow can be shoveled in a short space of time.If it is too big, the snow can no longer be lifted effectively. In order to ensure optimum shoveling, the blade volume must be carefully considered and provide optimum usability. A clearing function used in the second clearing row makes shoveling even more effective.

*Shoveling Time based on a Master’s thesis from Innsbruck University (times extrapolated from a test with 0.6 cubic meters of excavated material to 1.5 cubic meters)
** How we calculate the shovel volume: Pure blade volume + 2 cm


Shoveling Strategy

This is how you shovel quickly and effectively to save time and power that can save lives.

When digging out avalanche victims after an avalanche, the following procedure should be followed:  

  1. Read of the victim‘s depth from the probe and walk down the slope by this figure and start shoveling in a V-shape.
  2. If there are several helpers, two people stand at the front and shovel the snow backwards. The third stands behind and clears the snow away. change positions after one minute.
  3. The positions should be taken as follows:cut out blocks, shovel, and clear snow away.
  4. Tip: Shovels with a clearing function can save valuable time here.

Learn more

online or on our avalanche courses

Interactive avalanche training at home: The online ORTOVOX SAFETY ACADEMY LAB.

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Only with the right knowledge can you reduce the risk of getting caught in an avalanche: In the SAFETY ACADEMY AVALANCHE COURSES in cooperation with international mountain schools, we offer all the information you need about the risks involved when on the mountain. Get educated surrounded by snow-capped mountains and reduce the risk!

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COMPARISON: AVALANCHE SHOVELS

AVALANCHE SHOVEL PRO

70 € *
80 € *
125 € *

Avalanche Shovel Starter

60 € *
45 € *

Discover the ORTOVOX AVALANCHE PROBE GUIDE and learn all there is to know about probing!