My slacker pack has an old Ortovox lexan bladed shovel and an a 230cm probe but I'm never out of sight of the ski area with that kit. My reason for the plastic blade is that it hurts less when I fall. I have been digging in the snow for over 20 years and have yet to break a lexan shovel but it's always been in wet maritime snow. Every aluminum bladed shovel that I've ever spent much time digging with has been bent and flattened out.
My touring pack has a 300cm heavy duty probe and an aluminum shovel mostly because I can set my stove on the shovel blade and it won't melt into the snow when I'm using it. I don't build too many kickers any more so that blade is only used for digging pits and leveling tent sites. I haven't flattened it yet but might pick up either a Brooks Range shovel with the shark teeth or something that has a hoe option with a metal blade.
Knowledge and practice is more important than shiny tools and fitness is more important than hardness of boots.
Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 2:59 am Posts: 255 Location: Amsterdam
Years ago I totally got called out for riding with a cheap shovel, one of those Lifelink lexan things. I bought it partly due to their claim that the blade wouldn't break. It didn't occur to me that it wouldn't chop through icy avy chunks, either. Needless to say, I purchased a beefier shovel. The same case can be made for beacons. Would you rather your partner ride with something all tricked out and complicated with a shorter range, or something simple that works at greater distances? As mentioned above, choose partners wisely, hopefully ones with quality gear and the mountain sense to keep out of situations where that gear is needed.
Same thing in my Avy class. We all laughed at the "girls shovel" one dude had. Untill my arms fell off after 5 minutes, and he was still happily paddling lots of snow downward with his tiny blade. I think you generally want the best shovel for you to use in your pack. I went from a Telepro to a much smaller shovel because I can actually dig faster with that. But most important of all is to practice this in real packed snow. Stick a probe 150cm deep and try to dig it out as fast as you can.
Joined: Tue Nov 16, 2010 11:41 am Posts: 293 Location: Altadena SoCal
As I understand it, there's a place for both shovels in an emergency. Teams work best when they have both and exploit each shovel's comparative advantage. While both shovels can do all jobs, large scoopers (and serrated blades) break more debris faster while smaller blades paddle it along, out of the way faster. In the "V" of strategic shoveling, the large shovel is "on point" while the smaller blades are on the wings. Now an argument can be made that smaller blades focus your swing energy onto a smaller edge, thereby breaking hard snow better. I don't really know.
If all things were equal, I'd rather travel in a crew with an assortment of shovels than all big or all small.
But most important of all is to practice this in real packed snow. Stick a probe 150cm deep and try to dig it out as fast as you can.