They’re small, light and portable. They can be long-necked or compact; have serrated or straight-edged blades; and come in a pro or mini-pro sizes. Backcountry shovels are a given on gear checklists for outdoor enthusiasts.
Shovels can be used for digging snowpits and other snow safety work. They are essential for building quinzhees. Backcountry shovels can make for entertaining sledding. They can literally save the day in so many ways.
On one backcountry cabin trip, it started to snow. We were psyched. It snowed all day and all night. It snowed the second day as we glided through treed glades… and even more the second night. On the third day – yes, it was still snowing – we loaded up packs and got ready for the 7.5 mile (12 km) mostly downhill run to the car.
Now here’s the thing about several feet of fresh snow on a trail with moderate slope, it means no downhill run. We took turns following the lead skier, who’d break trail until their legs were rubber. They’d drop to the back and the next would plod onwards.
Winter daylight was quickly fading by the time we made it to the parking lot, where what we didn’t see had us trembling in our tracks. The car was gone. The parking lot was one big white rumpled blanket.
And then we looked again and caught a glimpse of metal. The car wasn’t gone, it was just buried. Laughing in relief, we pulled out shovels and went to work.
We were almost done, when someone had the audacity to point at the hill behind us, the unplowed one that snaked up to the highway.
Several hours later, after shovelling ahead of the car, gunning the engine and ramming as far into the snow as possible, backing up and repeating steps one to four, we made it to the highway.
Now if only the shovel could have helped with a gas tank gone empty from hours of unplanned revving and spinning…
Got a snow-dazed tale to share? Love to hear it!