A metal shovel light enough for racing? ARVA says yes, it's possible, with the new Ultra. Weighing just 302 grams (10.7 ounces), this ISMF compliant digger features a carbon fiber shaft that easily snaps into a svelt aluminum blade. When disconnected, the parts are slim enough to stow easily in a race pack. If you're not quite comfortable carrying a kids' toy during a race, the ARVA Ultra gives you a more robust option. Either way, we're still hoping there are no burials during a race.
- Blade is made of aluminum and measures 21 centimeters (8.3 inches) square.
- 46-centimeter (18.25 inch) carbon fiber shaft provides decent leverage when digging.
- Scoop is shallow for ease of packing and features holes for building anchors or sleds.
- Fully complies with International Ski Mountaineering Federation rules for certified races.
Update 2018/19: Arva realized the Ultra shovel was more than strong enough but as always, could be lighter. Weight savings cutouts have been implemented in low-stress areas in order to save weight even further.
Update 2020/21: The Ultra Shovel gets even lighter with a new color scheme.
Update 2022/23: The Ultra was replaced by the Race Carbon.
||Carbon fiber shaft, aluminum blade|
|Blade Dimensions||20cm x 20.5cm (410cm²)|
|Skimo Co Says|
|Usage||Racing, windward touring|
|Notes||Fits easily into race packs|
|Bottom Line||Lightest metal bladed shovel|
|Compare to other Shovels|
Questions & Reviews
I've used the shovel a number of times to dig a snow pit, build snow walls, or dig out a flat spot for a tent and it's handled that quite well even in quite solid solid snow. That being said, I still prefer to bring a more robust shovel with me under most conditions. I'll really only take the Ultra out with me on big days with low avy hazard or days where I'm not planning on skiing any avy terrain anyhow.
Time will tell if it holds up, but so far I'm impressed!
It did fit in my UD Skimo 18 pack (size M/L) but due to the length of the handle it was somewhat tight. It was easy to modify the handle, I chopped about 3" off mine and now it disappears in the pack, hardly noticeable.
I'd recommend this shovel, great piece of ultralight gear.
Background on product familiarity: For the 2012-13 late-spring/early-summer season I used the slightly heavier predecessor, the ARVA Snow Pure Light, which had a shorter and thinner shaft, combined with a reinforced composite blade. For the 2013-14 late-spring/early-summer season, I then switched to the Ultra.
First, the first impressions out of the box: Although obviously small, this shovel seemed “real” enough that I was sure it had to be far over its spec weight, given the metal blade and sufficiently long shaft. But the spec is spot on, so it is indeed about half the weight of a typical compact shovel.
The shaft end is nicely plugged and inserts reliably into the shaft. But I noticed some looseness in the connection. This prompted me to check some of my other shovels, whose varying looseness I kind of noticed for the first time. Still though, something about the combination of the carbon fiber shaft and the loose fit concerned me more than on my other shovels. But after wrapping some tape around the base of the shaft, the fit is now just right: secure yet still very easy to assemble.
Second impressions, in use: The plastic “T” handle is fine for gloved hands (but might be too small for mittens). The “neck” on the blade entails a longer effective packing length, but it still fits fine in the small outer compartment of my original-generation Dynafit Broad Peak 28.
Third impressions, for long-term durability: The blade material seems relatively thin, and the neck weld is relatively short. For backcountry companion rescue with good technique (i.e., chop then lift, not pry!), I think the Ultra should be fine. But for snowpit work, well, you want a larger blade anyway, so somewhat of a moot point, as the Ultra’s sole intended purpose is emergency rescue.
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