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Voile XLM

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Voile has updated its smallest shovel, the XLM. The original XLM was arguably the lightest functional aluminum avalanche shovel on the market. The new XLM is...arguably the lightest functional aluminum avalanche shovel on the market. What's changed? Voile says the new XLM is lighter, which conflicts a bit with my 2007 notes (I think the first-run XLM shovels were lighter still, but subsequent

— March 31, 2012

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents

Scott March 31, 2012 at 5:13 pm

What aluminum shovels would you name as an example of non-functional? I'm curious how you define functional in a shovel.

Andy March 31, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Scott, that's an interesting question. Functional for me probably means it is durable and strong enough to effectively dig into avalanche debris--within reason, with a blade size and handle length just large enough to be efficient without overloading my back. So I'm ruling out gardening shovels, for example, and also those plastic blade-only scoops...

What are your thoughts on functionality?

Scott April 1, 2012 at 8:42 am

I think it's a complicated topic, which is why I ask. I mean, if I'm carrying a shovel it ought to be able to serve to dig someone out of an avalanche, but I don't actually have any experience trying to dig anyone out of an avalanche so I have to go off of what info and experience I can get. I agree it has to be light and small enough to feasibly carry, but as for being able to do the job, that seems to be a harder think to qualify. Plastic shovels seem to be out based on the experience of others. As for aluminum shovels, how sturdy is sturdy enough? There was that test where they stomped on aluminum shovels with ski boots and most of them crumpled, but I'm not convinced that's a realistic scenario either. And how big is big enough? There's the school of thought where a smaller blade is actually better because moving more smaller loads faster tires you out less quickly than a few large heavy shovel-fulls, but this is far from universal agreement. Does it depend on upper body size and strength?

Pretty much whenever I start thinking about it I come up with more questions than answers and research only reinforces that.

Brent April 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I used this shovel for the first time over the weekend in the SGW. Dug a quick test pit in the north chute #1 on Jepson peak. The shovel is light and easy to assemble in a hurry. My only nitpick is they could have made the blade flatter for the sake of my pit walls. It's good gear otherwise! BTW, found wind slab over another wind slab over alpine ice with a so-so bond between the two slabs. Still kinda wintery on that aspect. Great run down the lower 2/3 of the chute though!

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