Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Nice pick, light weight.
Cons: No real spike.
Best Uses: Through hiking, ski mountaineering, moderate snow, adventure racers and glacier climbs.
The Petzl Snowracer is an excellent ultralight ice axe that excels in ski mountaineering and basic snow climbing terrain. It is the least expensive ultralight ice axe we tested. It proved itself as good as most other axes in many situations. It has a great pick and can tackle short, steep terrain better than many other ultralight models. It lacks a real spike, nor does it have any steel like some other semi-spikeless models. It merely has a slice of aluminum and tends to "kick out" while traversing steep, icy slopes.
Hikers and early season backpackers can go a little lighter if willing to spend a little more. This is ideal for a ski mountaineer looking for a durable axe with better steep snow performance and who doesn't mind a less comfy grip. The Black Diamond Raven Ultra is more comfortable, easier to use as a snow anchor, comes in more sizes and features a steel inset in the spike. But it also cost $30 more than the Snowracer.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
For better or worse, none of the weight savings is in the pick or the adze. Therefore it chops steps and tent platforms better than many of the general mountaineering axes we tested. It performs as well as the Black Diamond Raven Ultra and far better than the CAMP Corsa. The Snowracer self-arrests nicely, even in firmer conditions. The pick penetrates firmer snow and glacial ice better than most of the lighter ice axes in this review. It is more versatile and friendly on late season glacier routes than the Raven Ultra and is much better than a CAMP Corsa. The head is designed effectively for improvised snow anchors because it has numerous clip-in points in the pick and some smaller (slightly less useful ones) in the adze. The clip-in points in the head were not as easy to use as the BD Raven Ultra's but a little nicer than the CAMP Corsa. It does have a cap to keep the shaft from filling with snow. The textured shaft helps to increased your grip when booting step couloirs even when wearing fleece or other non-leather palmed gloves.
The Petzl Snowracer lacks a real spike, which keeps it from having a secure feeling in piolet cane position (spike in the snow). This is a bummer on long, icy traverses. It also kicks out more than a Raven Ultra because of the Ultra's steel insert. While we understand the Snow Racer was designed for ski mountaineers and adventure racers, it is disappointing to see only the 50cm length and nothing longer. The head of the ice axe is well designed to work as an improvised deadman but the lack of a spike makes driving the ice axe in vertically in firm snow conditions pretty difficult. The Snoweracer is below average for comfort; it scores behind both the BD Raven Ultra and the CAMP Corsa.
The Snowracer is designed for more moderate snow climbers and ski mountaineers who ask a little more of their ice axe than would early season backpackers. It isn't as well suited for all alpine routes but will handle most general mountaineering applications effectively. Along with the Black Diamond Raven it is a favorite among alpine rock climbers in areas like the Cascades, Tetons and the Sierra where you often have to carry your axe up your route and want a durable steel pick.
At just under $80 the Petzl Snowracer is the best deal on an ultralight ice axe. The Snowracer compares with any ice axe we tested in the price to weight ratio. This is a great ice axe for ski mountaineers or early season hikers not wanting to throw down the extra $30-$40 for a Raven Ultra. The Snowracer is the best price for a sub 14 oz ice axe in the whole review.
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: January 14, 2010
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