/ Snow Shovel Recommendations

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Alan M 12 Feb 2020

Hi,

I need to get a snow shovel for a WML training course can anyone recommend a reasonably priced unit? 

What is everyone using?

Thanks

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top cat 12 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M:

Needs the following attributes :

All metal

Adjustable shaft

Can convert to a hoe (brilliant feature!)

Bootable.  Ie flat shoulder you can use your boot on , not angled down.  And no, this is not so you can dig spuds....

Grip useable with mitts as well as gloves .  Good luck with this last one.....there aren't very many that accommodate mitts.

Heavy/strong enough to do the job!

Never mind the cost.

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Alan M 12 Feb 2020
In reply to top cat:

I was looking at the Ortovox Kodiak it seemed like it was well built, a bit heavy compared to others I looked at but seemed like it would be useable in a real world setting.  Have you got any experience with that shovel or similar?  The Kodiak was about £60

I have to mind the cost unfortunately because I need a few things, including a new set of crampons as my current set (old style G12s) don't fit my new boots (too wide in the heel compared to the boot) and my wages don't stretch that far!!!

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SenzuBean 13 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M:

I have used a recent Ortovox snow shovel and it was probably the best snow shovel I've used (ultra-light, sturdy, ergonomic, very effective at moving snow), but it looked like it would've also been the most expensive. Sorry can't be more help on what model.

2nd best was BCA B1 EXT, which I own. It's a contender (IMO) for best value for money snow shovel. I dug plenty of deep tent sites (the deepest was about 1.8m below the ground) with it and it never missed a beat.

I tried a G3 ultralight shovel, but it often and rapidly accumulated snow on the blade (I'm not sure if the design or just that unit was defective, but the powdercoat absolutely glued snow on)- I returned it as being dangerous (I couldn't in good faith trust that I'd be able to dig a team member out with it).

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Si Withington 13 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M:

The Kodiak is a great shovel. You want something tough as you won’t be digging in nice soft powder! Get a snow saw too.

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top cat 13 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M:

If the Kodiak is the one I think  it is then get it.

I'm selling two of my shovels to fund getting one because my other shovels don't have the D handle which allows the use of mitts.

We might be talking different models though because I've only seen Kodiaks for c£80 ?

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SiWood 13 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M:

There is the philosophy that says if it's you who is buried by avalanche the shovel you want your mate to own is a big one !

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PaulJepson 13 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M:

I have a Black Diamond Lynx that I get on well with. Fine for snow-holing etc. You may want something a bit bigger if it's digging someone out of an avalanche etc.

They can be picked up for around £25 as well. 

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Basemetal 13 Feb 2020
In reply to top cat:

I've had a simple light BCA shovel for a decade and not found it wanting. At the time I bought it it was the lightest metal snow shovel available. Sometimes I carry the extension tube, but not when climbing. I've not found any difficulty using the T handle with mitts though. I also have an Alpkit snow saw and would recommend a saw if you want to speed snowholing.

Costco sold a boxed pair (!) of shovels very like the BCA for £20 last year- may still be around for budget conscious buyers.

An avalanche probe completes the set, hopefully as much to check depth of cover for snowholes etc as for their intended purpose. A single purpose 2.4m+ shock cord linked probe is fast, easy and light, and all but essential to safely dig out a casualty anyway.

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ScraggyGoat 13 Feb 2020

From my limited experience

costco shovels - broke both on their respective first outings, friends costco shovels all broke as well, they can't stand any levering.

Black diamond lynx - ok; eat your spinach, and act like Popeye!

Black diamond deploy - better than lynx,  if you haven't tried anything else you'll be happy.

Orthovox beast 2.0 - beat the others hands down! Good blade edge for chopping through hard layers.  Lynx severely struggles, deploy manages but is hard work.

Probe - as mentioned before very useful to ensure enough depth and no boulders in your snow bank.

Alpkit snow saw - useful when snow is amenable to cutting blocks

Other useful tricks - put some SOLAS tape on your walking poles (if you use them), great for marking your entrance, so you can refind your hole in the dark if you go for a wander, or out for a pee, and to hopefully stop other party members walking over the top of your hole.  If planning an extensive excursion away from your hole consider also marking with a chemical light stick.

If near a buried stream coarse, probe to see if there is running water, and then dig it out as a water source to save time consuming snow melting.

If significant snow-fall and/or snow redistribution expected overnight which may start to accumulate over your hole, set a watch rota / alarm through the night and check your entrance isn't drifting in and you have a good air supply 

Post edited at 11:51
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Basemetal 13 Feb 2020
In reply to ScraggyGoat:

Thanks for the warning re Costco cheapies!

A trick that's still missing for climbers is a decent deadman-ice axe combination that gives a workable shovel.   ( Or a decent shovel blade to deadman set up to justify both 'marginal' requirements).  It seems such an obvious dual purpose that I must be missing something.

I used to carry a flat Troll (I think) deadman drilled for an exhaust clamp that could hold my axe shaft, but it was basically more paddle than shovel and useless for hard stuff. It did dig a few snowholes though.

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HardenClimber 13 Feb 2020
In reply to SiWood:

A shovel to match the diggers capabilities... so something smaller which can be used for an extended period may be better.

I'm sure I've been told that pointed shovels are harder to dig hard snow with as they skid more.

I've got a biggish Voile and a small BD deploy (which is what I usually take...)

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didntcomelast 13 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M:

I bought a shovel from Chlas Olson a few years ago. Only cost about 15 quid. Extendable shaft and alloy blade. Even has 4 holes for carabiners to make a dead man. Great bit of kit. 

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In reply to Alan M:

On Amazon they have all the BD shovels but rebranded and about half the price. Clearly they are made in the same factory but rebranded for different sellers. 

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Northern Star 14 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M:

A serious warning here - do not buy a cheap shovel, your friends life could depend on it. 

Avalanche debris is tough stuff.  This test report from the American Avalanche Association is a little old but it will make you think long and hard before you buy:

https://www.voile.com/avalanche_review_shovel_test.pdf

Following the above I got a Voile for my back country boarding.  Its tough, lightweight, fits in my backpack and I've had it 10 years now.  Never used in anger but plenty of digging cars out of snow, avalanche training and general snow hole stuff and it still looks like new.  Much nicer to use and quicker/easier to dig with than other stuff I've tried too.  Plus the piste patrol in lots of resorts seem to use them - so that's good enough for me.

Here you go:

https://www.voile.com/voile-avalanche-shovels.html

Post edited at 06:50
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kevin stephens 14 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M:

I have Black Diamond Deploy. The extendable handle does make it easy to “deploy “ but I find the handle is too short to maximise leverage when using it.

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Billhook 14 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M:

Much like the others = Avoid plastic blades and probably plastic handles too.

I do have a wooden handled one though, and its still working after years of abuse!.

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top cat 15 Feb 2020
In reply to Billhook:

Ah, yes!  Those Witco ? Shovels were great!  Most of my fairly extensive snow holing experience was in the 1980's so I have dug many dozens of holes using them.  And broken two blades  but never the wooden handle.   Wood is good ( grip and warmth) but not extendable ......

So, they certainly work, but now there are much better designs.   I think the Norwegian army still use them ??

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Basemetal 15 Feb 2020

Not a climbing incident but a skiing avalanche rescue for real. Worth a look - the slope, the extent, depth of burial and timing are all sobering.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6840kqTk74

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Siward 15 Feb 2020
top cat 15 Feb 2020
In reply to Siward:

Yes.  My first two were as per the link, my last one was finished in red, ? powered coat? and lasted much longer, and as far as I know is still going.....

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David Bennett 15 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M: I've had a few but the best mix of cost and features I've used is the latest ortovox 2.3. It's got a great  blade for cutting through layers, can be used as a deadman and is very light. Downside is it is a bit more expensive. Only used for ski touring cannot tell you about other applications.

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LucaC 16 Feb 2020
In reply to Alan M:

I have a BD transfer which is pretty good for snow holing. Extendable handle is a must, but it doesn't turn into a hoe, but I've never missed that. 

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Tom Ripley 16 Feb 2020
In reply to SiWood:

> There is the philosophy that says if it's you who is buried by avalanche the shovel you want your mate to own is a big one !

They want a good shovel, not a big one.

They’ll get knackered moving heavy shovels full of snow. A medium sized shovel will allow more snow to be moved quicker, as the user won’t get tired as fast. 
 

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top cat 16 Feb 2020
In reply to LucaC:

Once you have experienced a shovel in hoe mode you won't want to be without the option.  Seriously good!    Two people working together, one on the coal face with a shovel and one behind with a hoe makes a significant difference to dig times, be it hole or rescue work.

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LucaC 16 Feb 2020
In reply to top cat:

I'm happy to be convinced... but I don't need a 4th shovel! hah! 

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