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Backcountry Ski Stuff:
Things to make your backcountry skiing safer and more fun


Ortovox Grizzly Snow Shovel
(21.4 oz)
I prefer shovels that can swivel the blade at 90 degrees to the handle so that I can dig with them like a hoe.  I find that digging is more efficient this way, and it's also a lot easier when digging in the confines of a snow cave as well.  And, in hard snow, I can chop a lot faster than I can dig.  
The Grizzly shovel has that feature, and the shovel blade folds across the handle like an army entrenching tool.  The handle is short, and non telescoping (the Grizzly 2 has a telescoping handle) but I don't much care, as I'm typically using it in hoe configuration anyway. 
The Grizzly has an aluminum alloy blade and is built pretty burly in spite of its light weight.  I've used a number of snow shovels, and haven't found any with this much function for so little weight.   

Ski Strap and Hook

Ski Leashes / Straps
I tend to favor ski leashes over brakes for my skis mounted with Dynafit bindings.  This is due primarily to the fact that Dynafit doesn't make brake kits that are wide enough for most of my skis.  However, ski straps also provide a very handy tool for helping you step into your Dynafit bindings.  You can pull on the the strap, and put maneuver the ski with it, putting a little upward pressure that helps to align the toe of the boot with the toe clamps.  
Ski straps can be dangerous in avalanche terrain, however, because if your skis remain attached to you in an avalanche, they can pull you down, causing you to be more deeply buried in the slide.  Most commercially available ski straps that I've seen are so strong that they would not be likely to release in an avalanche.    
Another problem I have with typical ski straps is that they are too short.  You have to undo them whenever you need to get out of your bindings to skin up or remove skins.  Also, in a fall, short leashes keep your skis right next to you, beating you with the skis as they fly around. 
My solution to these issues was to make my own straps.  I used a long powder cord from EK (their "powder cat" cord) for the strap.
To attach it to my boot, I use a plastic snap hook.  The snap hook is strong enough to keep hold of the ski during a fall, but weak enough that the strong forces of an avalanche would break it and release me from my skis.  (That's the theory, at least.  I've never actually been in an avalanche to test this theory.) 
The snap hook attaches to the toe of the boot with a simple piece of cord run through the toe where the tounge piece is connected. 
When I'm skiing, I just tuck the excess powder cord into the cuffs of my pants or into my gaiters, so it stays out of the way.  The powder cords are long enough that I can keep them attached when I've got the skis removed for skinning up etc.  This is good, because it prevents loss of the ski when you aren't wearing it. 
I've used this system for quite a while, and have found it to be the most convenient solution to the problem of keeping my skis under control if they release. 



Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain
by Bruce Tremper
This is simply the best book ever written on avalanche avoidance.  I've read a dozen books on the subject, and have not found any others that contain as much useful, practical information.
I used to listen to Bruce Tremper's recorded avalanche conditions message every morning back when I lived in Utah.  He clearly has poured a great deal of his experience and wisdom into the pages of this book. 
Buy it.  Read it.  Be safe. link to the book:

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