Women-specific ice axes are a tool of the future. But Black Diamond's top-of-the-line Fusion ($280; blackdiamondequipment.com), however, still works well for smaller hands. A mixed alpine and ice climbing tool, the Fusion has an adjustable over-molded grip with three 5 mm spacers that can accommodate most hand sizes, including small ones that require heavy gloves to keep them warm. Weighing in at a mere 1 lb, 6 oz, the aluminum and stainless steel Fusion also has an extended hydroform shaft that allows for a more sensitive feel on the ice. Black Diamond's carbon-fiber Cobra ($336), for leashless mixed ice and alpine climbing, also works well for women. Its super lightweight carbon-fiber shaft (1 lb., 6 oz.) absorbs more shock, which lessons issues like tendonitis.
Weighing in at 460 grams (minus accessories), the Quark ($245; petzl.com) is Petzl's lightest ice tool. It also has a comfortable ergonomic, molded handle that fits small hands.
Before you head to Ouray, check out "Chicks With Picks" (chicksclimbing.com), the all-women's ice-climbing school that offers four clinics in Ouray throughout January. Whether you're a newbie and have never put axe to ice or need to brush up on your technical skills, Chicks With Picks has a clinic custom-designed for you.