Staying safe is your #1 priority when venturing into avalanche territory, which is why tools such as snow saws and avy bags, as well as proper training, are necessary. Judging the depth and stability of the snowpack is one of the first steps to ensuring safety in avalanche-prone areas. The traditional method of digging a snow pit is always a good place to start, but there are ways to supplement it – such as with the Lyte Probe from Idaho-based startup Adventure Data.

The Lyte Probe is a “smart ski pole,” designed to give backcountry skiers and adventurers easy, smart, electronic analysis of snowpack depth and stability. Patent-pending sensors are embedded in the pole’s tip; when plunged deep into the snowpack, these sensors will scan pertinent info, sending it to the user’s smartphone. There, a visual, layered representation of the snowpack is visible in Lyte’s free app, giving you an easier-to-read, precise picture of what the snow looks like beneath your feet.

Here’s the catch; it’s not a standalone device. Instead, the visual snowpack data in the app is meant to be used to correspond with and verify the snowpit that has already been, giving you a clearer and more-detailed picture of how safe the snow is.

If that’s the case, then the $400 price tag seems a bit steep. Are we saying it’s not a helpful tool? No – it can be an excellent, high-tech way to supplement your “analog” analysis of the terrain around you, and further ensure safety. And sticking it inside a ski pole – a piece of gear you need to carry anyway – is plain convenient. But it’s mainly for experienced pros, and is certainly no replacement for learning and keeping proper backcountry skills sharp.

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