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The 6 Best Backcountry Avalanche Shovels of 2020-2021

Among avalanche professionals there’s a running joke that before you head out on a tour, you ask to see your partner’s shovel. If it’s smaller and flimsier than yours, you trade them, so that they’re carrying the bigger shovel that can move more snow faster. Part of your the avalanche rescue trio of the beacon, shovel, and probe, your avalanche shovel is an essential part of your backcountry kit. Choosing the best avalanche shovel means balancing weight, bulk, and ease of use. It doesn’t matter how nicely your avalanche shovel fits in your pack if it’s hard to use when your friend’s life depends on it. And even if you never have to use your shovel in earnest, even if you’re just digging pits and building booters with it, it’s still worth it to get a nice, high-quality shovel that you can depend on.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best avalanche shovels we’ve found. The market is full of cheap collapsible shovels, and the last thing you want is for your shaovel to break when you need it most. So we’ve gathered this list of the best avalanche shovels to help you make this important choice.


ABS A-ssure

Best 2020-2021 backcountry avalanche shovels
 
 

ABS makes a whole range of avalanche safety accessories, which means that they can design all of their gear to work well together and integrate to create a cohesive package. That’s the main draw of their A-ssure shovel. Sure, it’s got a sturdy aluminum build, and a large but lightweight blade, but the real magic comes when it’s time to stash it in your pack with your other safety gear. The ABS A-ssure has a clip system in the handle to hold onto your probe, so your tools don’t rattle around in your pack. It’s also designed to fit perfectly into ABS packs. Finally, it integrates with ABS’s A.Way technology which connects your avalanche gear and transceiver to your smartphone, gets you all your local snowpack info in one place, and sends you an alert if you try to head out to ski without an important piece of gear.

So yes, this shovel might look simple, but it’s got a whole lot of fancy stuff going on. If you’re looking for a shovel to complete your seamless ABS avy gear system, the Assure fits the bill.

SizeHandle Style Weight Original Price 
14.2"x8.3"T Handle530 g$80

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BCA B-1 EXT

Best 2020-2021 backcountry avalanche shovels
 
 

BCA markets the not-so-creatively named B-1 EXT shovel as the “most used shovel in North America.” And we’d take their word for it. In any group of two or more backcountry skiers there’s bound to be at least one person with this shovel. Why? Because it’s simple, and simply one of the best avalanche shovels. It’s straightforward, and it just plain works. The oval handle is stiff and light, the large blade makes moving a bunch of snow fast relatively easy, and the whole package packs down nice and small.

BCA knows how to make good shovels, and there’s a reason this one is the gold standard. It has a combination of price, durability, and utility that’s hard to beat. If you just want the peace of mind that a good shovel brings, without having to think too much about it, go with the B-1

SizeHandle Style Weight Original Price 
9.8”x10”T Handle600 g$49.95

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ARVA Access

Best 2020-2021 backcountry avalanche shovels
 
 

Arva’s Access shovel is designed to be simple and utilitarian. It’s very affordable, and offers plenty of bang for your buck. Its solid aluminum construction means it holds up well, even as you hack at ice blocks, and the segmented handle is easy to extend fast in an emergency. It doesn’t have the biggest blade of any shovel on this list, but it’s still easy to move snow fast with, and the ribbed plastic T grip offers plenty of traction, even when you’re wearing gloves.

If you’re trying to save money, while still buying good safety gear that works well, the Arva Access is our top budget pick. It won’t break the bank, but it will help you move snow.

SizeHandle Style Weight Original Price 
9.45”x 9.45”T Handle510 g$39.95

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BCA A2 Arsenal

Best 2020-2021 backcountry avalanche shovels
 
 

The BCA A2 Arsenal takes all of the confidence inspiring design elements of the B-1, and adds some extra features. It’s got a slightly larger blade, but it’s still contoured nicely to fit in most packs. And it’s got the same sturdy, easy to use construction. But it carries a secret in its handle. BCA realized that more folks would actually carry a snow saw if it didn’t mean another bulky item to stash in their packs. So they designed a special saw that lives inside the A2’s handle. It doesn’t hamper shovel use at all, but when it comes time to separate columns of snow for compression tests, you’ve got a saw handy instead of fumbling with your ski tails.

No, the Arsenal isn’t the cheapest shovel on this list, but that’s because you’re getting two tools for the price of one. So if you want a handy, compact saw integrated into a workhorse shovel, you won’t be let down.

SizeHandle Style Weight Original Price 
10”x10.75”T Handle with snow saw880 g$89.95

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Mammut Alugator Pro Light

Best 2020-2021 backcountry avalanche shovels
 
 

The Alugator from Mammut was designed to shave weight from your pack without compromising on your shovel’s performance. So it’s got strategic cutouts and ribs to eliminate as much material as possible while still maintaining a stiff chassis. Because every gram you can shave off your pack weight is a little extra energy to go take that extra lap, or climb one more line.

If weight is a priority, but you don’t want to compromise with a wimpy shovel that balks at actually moving hard snow fast, the Alugator is the way to go.

SizeHandle Style Weight Original Price 
10.83” x 9.45”T Handle645 g$79.95

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BCA B-52 EXT

Best 2020-2021 backcountry avalanche shovels
 
 

If you find yourself moving a lot of snow regularly with your avy shovel, whether you’re building backcountry booters or just digging out your car from the parking lot, you owe it to yourself to try out the B-52. It’s got the biggest blade and most comfortable handle of any shovel on this list, and it makes it easy to move a whole load of snow fast. Sure, it’s far from the lightest shovel on this list, and you’ll want to double check that the blade fits in your pack, but it just can’t be matched when it comes time to dig.

Some folks own shovels that just live in a backpack for years, never getting used. Others are moving snow with their shovel most ski days. If that second group sounds familiar, the B-52 is our weapon of choice - ot's one of the best large avalanche shovels.

SizeHandle Style Weight Original Price 
11”x 13.3”D Handle960 g$59.95

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