Having used avy gear for practice & snow pack testing, not for rescue - yet, let me state that Mike Clelland is absolutely correct in the 1st instance. Take an Avalanche 1 course. Then take an Avy 2 course next year.
I took a 4 day course, 2 days mostly indoors and 2 days "practicum" on the mountains. Then after the course keep re-reading "Snow Sense" and your notes.
As for gear, it's what WORKS BEST, not what's lightest. Most avy gear weighs nearly the same. Here's my list:
SHOVEL - BCA mid-size T handle shovel (but I prefer D handles) Never, ever take a plastic bladed shovel. They're usless.
PROBE - Black Diamond Super Tour
SNOW SAW - BCA shorter version (12" blade)
AVALUNG - Strap-on model, not built-in-pack model
BEACON - BCA Tracker Easy to use and less expensive than my 1st choice, Mammut Barryvox Pulse
SNOW STUDY KIT - from REI (snow crystal & info cards, magnifier, thermometer) Silva Ranger CL compass W/ clinometer.
And if you're independently (still) wealthy buy a Swiss or Austrian air bag backpack. They tout a 95% survival rate - unless, of course, you go over a cliff or through a rock or tree strainer.
Finally take a woman or three with you. Statistics show parties including women have fewer avalanche fatalities. Probably because they temper the judgement of macho-men who want to "press on regardless". Always err on the side of caution. Never listen to the "bravest" guy in the party if in doubt of the safety of a route.