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What are your thoughts on snowboarding with an ice axe?

I took a nasty 300 foot slide on a hard-packed, black diond slope after slipping while snowboarding. On the way down I intersected with a tree and have lived to tell the tale. I would like some advice on an ice axe or smaller device that I could use to stop myself in the next hair-losing slide like that. Any ideas? Kirk Olivehurst, California


One word: Ouch.

Camp USA Ice Axe

Corsa Ice Axe

But seriously, what are you suggesting you try? You don’t really think carrying an ice axe around will solve things, do you? I mean, here you are, zooming down the slope on a snowboard, and you fall and start to tumble or slide. True, maybe you could self-arrest. But that’s if you don’t first fall on the pick end of the axe, giving yourself a sucking chest wound or worse. Or, you hit some else, impaling them on the point.

The best I can suggest is that you carry a light, compact ice axe in a pack. Then, if you hit some steep, icy terrain, perhaps you could take it out and carefully use it to get yourself down. Camp USA makes a very light axe called the Corsa ($110; that weighs just seven ounces, so you hardly notice you have it. REI’s Fall Line Hydration Pack ($99; could hold any gear you need, plus it has tie-down locations for the axe on the outside. But I’m very nervous about the idea of a pointy thing like an ice axe that close to your head…or anyone else’s.

One other option is the Black Diamond Whippet Self-Arrest Ski Pole ($100; It’s exactly what it sounds like, a ski pole with a self-arrest adze at the handle. But then that means you have to snowboard with a ski pole (although it telescopes and could store in a pack). And, it’s kind of a mean-looking tool. But, maybe better than that long, sliding fall…

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Filed To: Axes
Lead Photo: courtesy, Camp USA