Alugator Light — Mammut Avalanche Rescue Shovel Exam

Post by blogger | November 11, 2016      
Alugator shovel, a bit camera distorted, blade is larger than it looks.

Alugator shovel, a bit camera distorted, blade is larger than it looks at 25×21 cm.

Nice shovel. Excellent weight, size is good compromise between packing and digging. While we prefer a slightly larger blade for extensive pit work or traveling in high-risk situations — we’re fine with this as an everyday tool. The skeletonized Alugator avalanche shovel blade has numerous slots you can use for lashing to a pack or building a rescue sled (or creating a deadman snow anchor). Blade edge is sharp and serrated. We prefer a straight edge that’s blunted, but five minutes with the disk grinder solved the problem.

Fixation button and lead-in notch, very simple and super effective.

Fixation button and lead-in notch, very simple and super effective.

Best Alugator feature? Lead-in notch for inserting the ovalized shaft eliminates fumbling, as well as protecting the shaft-blade fixation button from being accidentally depressed. I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about the future of avalanche safety. Clearly, in the event of a burial the challenge is time. Speed of your beacon search is factor two (though incessantly harped on in beacon PR as factor one). Factor one is how fast you can dig. Saving a second or two in the time it takes to get your rescue kit out might not seem a big deal, but the seconds can really stack up when you start fumbling with probes, shovel shafts and whatnot. Ideally, a shovel and probe that nearly deploy themselves would be ideal. Getting closer. Little things help.

To the point.

To the point.

We don't like sharp scalloped blades. You might. Solution for us is quality time with disk grinder.

We don’t like sharp scalloped blades. You might. Solution for us is quality time with disk grinder.

All shovels should have flat places for your feet in case you have to go nuclear.

All shovels should have flat places for your feet in case you have to go nuclear. Present here, with reinforcement.

Alugator ski touring shovel weights:
Total: 472 grams
Blade: 270 grams
Shaft: 202 grams

Shaft, collapsed and inserted, 31 cm
Shaft, collapsed and removed from shovel, 38 cm
Shaft, extended, inserted in shovel, 52 cm
Total length with shaft extended, 75 cm
Blade 25 x 21 cm

Shop for Alugator and other Mammut ski touring shovels.


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22 Responses to “Alugator Light — Mammut Avalanche Rescue Shovel Exam”

  1. Jack November 11th, 2016 11:03 am

    Lou, Would you please elaborate on the scalloped/sharp vs. straight/blunt preference?

  2. Lou Dawson 2 November 11th, 2016 11:12 am

    Sure, scalloped sharp is for cutting skin, damaging your backpack, and looking good on the store shelf. Flat blunt is for scraping tent platforms, sculpting columns in snowpits, and digging people out of avalanches. “Blunt” still cuts pretty well, the alu is thin. Lou

  3. Charlie Hagedorn November 11th, 2016 11:22 am

    Do you plan to put reviewed shovels to a strength/abuse test?

    The 2009 Genswein shovel test had a profound impact on my choice of shovel. I’ve seen two ~2006-era aluminum shovels break/crack in fairly light regular use.

    Like an avalanche probe, our day-to-day experience with shovels is one of light use in pits and unpleasant weight in the pack. But when it comes time for a rescue, we have to be able to trust the tools that might bring our partner back from the dead.

  4. Matus November 11th, 2016 11:26 am

    Lou, did you do some real world testing? I like light stuff but lightness usually goes with weakness. Is this the case or the shovel is comparable to its 600+ g sisters and brothers?

  5. Lou Dawson 2 November 11th, 2016 11:41 am

    Real world testing is coming, but I’m confident or I would not have published this look. Lou

  6. Lou Dawson 2 November 11th, 2016 11:49 am

    The Genswein test is BS overkill for dedicated avalanche rescue (as opposed to body recovery) requirements and emergency survival, in my opinion. It’s valid for shovels that are used constantly, for a variety of purposes such as digging out automobiles from snowplow berms, stuff like that. Valid if you read between the lines and realize that.

    I think it’s easy to test a dedicated avalanche rescue shove. Go dig for a half hour or so in moderatly dense snow and see if anything untoward happens. Like cracks developing, handles coming undone, weird flexing etc. If it feels good, it’s probably good. You can also do the pry test. Trap the blade somehow (between boards on your outdoor deck, for example) and pry. See if you can apply typical force you’d use in a rescue dig and add a little more. If it doesn’t bend or break, you’re good.

    I did the deck board test and got a pass, the reinforced blade and ovalized handle stood up.


  7. Charlie Hagedorn November 11th, 2016 12:24 pm

    Great – thanks!

    I do think that our durability expectations for a new shovel should substantially exceed that required for a single rescue. When we’re asking students and partners to practice over and over again at full rescue speed, we’re putting that rescue stress on the shovel multiple times.

    On the lightest-weight shovels, it might be appropriate for manufacturers to help us quantitatively understand how much duty each shovel is designed for. They do that now, to an extent, by marketing some shovels toward professional rescuers, but I’ve not seen a “this shovel is good for 100 days of regular use and 3 rescues” or something similar.

  8. Lou Dawson 2 November 11th, 2016 1:09 pm

    Charlie, for those of us who are highly active in the sport, a quiver of a few shovels is not unreasonable. As for what they say in marketing spreech, that is very dangerous when you start making specific claims with numbers and such.

    Good point about how much wear and tear that practice places on the shovel. It would not be unreasonable to use a sacrifice shovel for practice, and keep the nice fresh one in the backpack for that “one time.”

    No shovel that’s reasonable in weight can hold up forever… Even a steel dirt spade has a lifespan. I’ve broken handles and blades on those during my construction days.


  9. Charlie Hagedorn November 11th, 2016 3:14 pm

    Agreed – thanks! :).

  10. Lou Dawson 2 November 11th, 2016 5:55 pm

    In case you want to mod a shovel blade, disk grinder with 60 grit “flapper” disk and some water spray does the job. Lou

  11. Aaron Mattix November 12th, 2016 6:21 am

    Perhaps an upcoming shovel shoot-out? Just starting to shop for any avy shovel myself, and am quite fascinated by the BCA Dozer Hoe, as it most resembles the trail tools I use on a regular basis. It’s over twice the weight of the Alugator, but the effectiveness of the hoe design in moving more volume of material seems it would outweigh light weight deployability.

  12. Hacksaw November 12th, 2016 5:33 pm

    Why do so called designer keep making shovel blades the size of a t-spoon? I’ll stick with my old Ortovox Alaska shovel.

  13. See November 12th, 2016 7:44 pm

    Maybe a small shovel is faster for most people in heavy, compacted snow?

  14. Nathan November 13th, 2016 7:40 am


    I know one very fit person who successfully rescued a buried victim last season.

    He immediately bought a shovel with a smaller blade after the rescue. He stated that it was faster and more efficient to keep moving small amounts but his very large “professional grade” shovel was scooping too much snow at once and wearing him out.

    Something to think about.

    I’ve been planning to get this shovel since it was introduced last season. In person, the blade seems to be a great balance between utility and speed.

  15. Lou Dawson 2 November 13th, 2016 7:56 am

    Shovel size is a difficult issue. It’s highly dependent on what type of snow is being shoveled, and the strength of the shoveler. If at all possible, it’s instructive to get your shovel out after you’ve triggered a sluff or small avalanche during ski cutting or other, and shovel the debris pile for a few minutes.

    Most importantly, one must draw a distinction between “companion rescue” and body recovery. SAR work and excavation of long buried unfortunate victims is way different than shoveling someone out who’s in fresh. The former involves chopping and prying set up snow, live rescue involves speed removing large volume of less dense but still somewhat heavy snow, or sometimes very heavy snow if you happen to be involved in “wet” snow conditions.


  16. Frame November 13th, 2016 9:01 am

    Aaron, there is a version of the Mammut with hoe and D handle. Weight is higher.

  17. See November 13th, 2016 9:29 am

    I had an Ortovox Pro shovel that could be configured as a hoe. I gave it to a friend before I ever actually took it on a tour, but it seemed pretty nice.

  18. Hacksa November 13th, 2016 9:32 am

    Interesting. I too have dug out live and dead folks with my “big” shovel blade. I still like the bigger blad. You can do better chopping with it. I have done a lot of digging in my life. You’ll see my name on the BCA strategic shoveling study.
    Halsted Morris aka Hacksaw

  19. Jason November 18th, 2016 12:22 pm

    Ask any snowboarder or skier who is out building large jumps about what shovels are holding up. I know when that was my purpose for hanging out in the backcountry (in the mid 90s and early 2000s) I went back to plastic blades since I flattened every single aluminum blade that I used to move big blocks of Cascade Concrete. For my backcountry adventures now I’m back to aluminum shovels again and I agree with Lou that people that are out a lot probably have a quiver of shovels. For riding the sled and avalanche classes I have a heavy BCA shovel/hoe, for lighter touring duty I have an Ortovox something or other, and for lift accessed side country I still carry an old Ortovox plastic blade since it flexes easier when I fall on it. 😀

    For the record, I like scalloped edges.

  20. Gustav March 27th, 2017 8:21 am

    Lou, have you tested the shovel more? in hard snow? I wouldn’t mind a lighter shovel but I don’t want it to compromise my ability to dig out my friends after an avalanche. I’m not worried about the blade size though. Rather if everything would hold up when snow is hard and frosen?

  21. Matus March 27th, 2017 8:23 am

    I got this shovel. Looks quite strong. But the handle could be a bit longer. I have not used it yet – I was lazy.

  22. Lou Dawson 2 March 27th, 2017 8:50 am

    I’ve not had any trouble with the shovel, but most of these types are clearly not designed to be used day after day in heavy snow that could fatigue the blade. That’s fine with me, as that’s the kind of shovel I want. If you want a stronger shovel you can use to dig heavy snow every day, plenty are available. It’s a matter of making reasonable choices, just as when you decide things like how much emergency medical gear to carry, and so forth.

    As for digging frozen snow, I don’t see how that pertains to a live avalanche rescue. The snow during the brief time you have to save someone by digging them out from an avalanche burial will not be frozen or particularly hard. Later, sure, that’s when the SAR crew shows up with heavy equipment to deal with excavation, and is a sad time.

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