Snow Claw

Fast way to build a Snow Cave or make a splint.

Photo by John Harlin
Snow Claw
Dusk was falling, and so was more snow. By my estimation, about 12 inches of fresh powder had been added to the 5 feet already blanketing the frozen forests and marshes of Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness. Snowshoers filed into camp in ones and twos, most tired and chilled from climbing, heavily laden, at altitudes near 10,000 feet. Anxious to brew some hot drinks, Doug and I set about pitching his tepee tent, which would serve as our cook shack. While he set the anchors, I dove inside with his avalanche shovel to excavate a floor and benches.
Within minutes, I’d collapsed two sides of the tepee: My 6'6" frame and several feet of shovel just didn’t work well together in the confined space. While enduring a few well-deserved curses, I swapped the shovel for the SnowClaw, a small plastic “shovel” I’d tossed in my pack at the trailhead. In minutes, my job was done, and the stoves were perched on a perfectly sculpted snow table.
The SnowClaw is a very different kind of shovel. Imagine a square plastic shield, 12 inches across and 12 inches tall, with four rounded corners and cutout handles on either side. Grab the handles so the plate’s concave side faces you and the sharper, bottom edge faces the ground. From a kneeling position, drive the sharp edge deep into the snow, then pull hard on the handles to scoop the snow away to between or beside your legs. Flex the Claw slightly to cut through crusty layers or hard-packed snow.
With its utilitarian dimensions, the SnowClaw lets you dig efficiently in the tight confines of a floorless tent or snowcave (as I discovered during subsequent outings last winter). For outdoor work, like digging a tent platform or designing an alfresco dining area, you might prefer a long-handled shovel, but the SnowClaw does the job just fine if you don’t mind kneeling while you scoop. At only 6 ounces, it’s light enough to pack along with a standard aluminum shovel, and you’ll surely find other uses--sled, seat, dinner plate, emergency splint, and so on.
Note that the SnowClaw is not a replacement for a sturdy avalanche shovel. While the molded plastic stood up to hard snow in temperatures as low as –10°F and sliced through soft, wet snow, one of the samples we tested cracked when applied vigorously to the kind of rock-hard snow chunks common in an avalanche zone. Several snow-savvy editors who joined me in testing the SnowClaw agreed that it’s a nifty, lightweight tool for quickly shaping snow shelters, but not a full-duty winter shovel.
PRICE: $13.95
WEIGHT: 6 oz.
CONTACT: SnowClaw International, 877-904-3200;

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