Camp USA Ice Axe
Corsa Ice Axe

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

Camp USA Ice Axe

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One word: Ouch.

Camp USA Ice Axe

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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