The Black Diamond Whippet is a niche-but-reliable product for skiers who need an ice pick during their excursions out on the mountain. The single pole provides a lot of extra protection for those working with steep terrain and acts as a sturdy pole for more casual travel.
- Where to Buy: Black Diamond, REI, Amazon
- Best For: Backcountry or mountaineer skiers who want extra versatility in their poles.
- Pros: This pole is well-made and can stand up to the elements with ease. The ax easily punches through snow and ice and gives you extra protection without losing the feel of a normal pole.
- Cons: For all of its great features, the Black Diamond Whippet is a bit more expensive than other choices. In addition, you only get one pole with your purchase and its utility is quite niche.
- Alternatives: Black Diamond Traverse, Black Diamond Expedition 3, LEKI Tour Stick
Why Trust Me
I’ve been hitting the slopes ever since I was a kid. I enjoy getting out in the snow and have hands-on experience with a wide range of different skiing items. I know skiers who used this pole and have spent a lot of time researching its various attributes.
The Black Diamond Whippet is a well-made pole. The design, while a bit niche, is incredibly useful for people who need extra security. Having a strong pole that also serves as an ice axe is incredibly useful for mountaineers, and the removable design doesn’t lock you into one style, so you can ski in your preferred way.
Though not for everyone, I personally enjoy the Whippet’s minimalist design. This simple pole doesn’t have too many extra frills. What you see is what you get, and what you get is a three-section telescoping model that works perfectly in off-piste and remote locations.
This model is fully adjustable. You can use it as a normal pole for regular conditions, but you can also screw in the ice pick attachment when you want extra help on icy surfaces or in deep vegetation. It’s nice to have when moving downhill as well.
Black Diamond equipped the Whippet with the intuitive FlickLock design. That feature securely locks the pole in place and ensures you won’t get any problems with movement. It is worth noting, however, that the tightening mechanism needs a small Allen key. That can be a little bit of pain as opposed to cleaner designs. On the other hand, the ice pick is simple to operate and doesn’t move at all, once securely clicked into place.
Weight and Size
Perhaps the most impressive feature in the Whippet is how well it switches roles. Many niche or versatile options tend to lock themselves into one use. This gets around such problems by operating perfectly as a regular backcountry pole and a lightweight ice axe.
The aluminum construction and tough metal build are both great because they make this serve as a stand-alone pole. Then, when you need it, you can quickly screw the pick in and get ready to climb or ascend. It just takes a few seconds and will barely slow you down. You never have to get tired by driving the pick weight when you don’t need to.
The pick, which weighs in at just 8 ounces, is also easy to carry. Total, the whole pole is 17.6 ounces. That’s a little heavier than similar choices, but it’s not a problem since you can take the pick off so easily. I also like the collapsible design. The Whippet packs down to 26.8 inches and can be stored when you return to the resort or want to walk around without something in your hand.
A Comfortable Feel
It’s also worth noting that the Whippet feels great. As mentioned, the light weight makes it easy to both swing and drive. However, Black Diamond doesn’t stop there. They also outfitted it with a rubber grip that’s comfortable no matter how hard you squeeze. The shape feels nice on either hand. There’s also a strap that you can easily adjust to fit your individual needs.
That being said, you will notice the extra weight when the pick is attached. The additional power is not a huge deal due to how light the pick is, but it’s something to be aware of when choosing this item.
Strength that Packs a Punch
Black Diamond is a well-known company, and I’m happy to report their quality holds up with this model. The Whippet has a sturdy aluminum design that’s both lightweight and incredibly tough. You never want a pole that’s too heavy or that will hold you back, especially one you might need to drive into the ground or lug through the backcountry. This model is great towards that end and can be carried for long periods.
The Whippet is built to last. You will almost find no plastic throughout the metal design, which is a blessing for people who want to put their poles through a lot of abuse. Everything in the locking system is durable, and all of the parts of the ice pick, from the screw to the twisting mechanism, are extremely tough. The pick itself is also powerful and can be run into ice over and over again without dulling.
The Whippet’s value comes down to how badly you need an ice ax hybrid. Is it on the pricey side? Yes. Even so, if you’re someone who needs the versatility it provides, or if you simply want some extra functionality in the backcountry, it’s hard to complain about the ability to switch modes on the fly.
This also comes as one pair. Though that won’t be a huge issue for most backcountry skiers who already have their own poles or setup, it would have been nice to be able to get a pair. If you do want two for whatever reason, it’s going to cost you extra.
What I Like
The Whippet’s best feature is its ability to switch between an ice axe and a regular pole. The attachment system is incredibly intuitive and helps stop arm fatigue by cutting weight when you don’t need it.
I also love the construction. Not only will the aluminum hold up in the most challenging conditions, but it’s also lightweight. That works incredibly well with the adjustable strap and soft rubber grip to provide you with a comfortable pole. Anytime you can cut back on weight without losing any power or strength is a plus in my book.
What I Dislike
As great as this pole is for what it does, it does have a rather one-track focus. You truly need to be able to take advantage of an ice ax to get the most out of this. It works nicely as a general pole, but you can get a lot more bang for your buck for the price.
On that note, the Whippet also comes as a single item rather than a pair. That lowers the value in my opinion, even if it won’t be a huge deal for more seasoned backcountry riders. The adjustment system needing an Allen key can also be a bit fiddly, especially considering how nicely the ice pick screw-in system works.
- Black Diamond Traverse – This pole is a solid backcountry option that’s perfect for people who need a tough item that won’t break the bank. The lower price point gives you plenty of value, especially when you consider the comfortable grip, strong construction, and durability.
- LEKI Tour Stick – The Tour Stick is for skiers who want a more premium pole and don’t mind a bit of extra weight. This model does come at a higher price, but it gives you an extremely adjustable pole that’s easy to hold. It’s comfortable and packs quite small too.
- Black Diamond Expedition 3 – Another Black Diamond option, the Expedition 3 is a backcountry pole that also works well for general trekking. It’s a bit heavier than the Whippet, but makes up for that with strength and comfort. This is best for skiers who want something simple that can take a beating for years to come.
Does this come with two poles?
No. The Black Diamond Whippet comes as one pole.
Is the Whippet’s ax built-in?
Rather than having an attached axe, the Whippet uses a detachable model that you can take on and off as you see fit.
Does this work both on and off-piste?
The Whippet’s versatile design enables it to work well in a range of different environments. It has the power to hold up in softer snow, but the strength to handle ice.
While this won’t completely replace a climbing kit in truly slick or steep terrain, it’s a great option for those who want a strong pick for more accessible steep environments. There have been quite a few different models over the years, but none of them have the functionality or unique design like this one.
There are many poles out on the market. However, few have the niche applications of the Whippet. This design is truly unique and perfect for skiers who want a functional pole on top of a strong ice pick. It’s also easy to pack and carry around thanks to the tough aluminum construction. You’re getting something with versatility, just make sure you can take advantage of it before shelling out the money.
Joseph Scalise is an avid writer, editor, and snow sports enthusiast who loves to spend his time outdoors. He began his love of writing early on in life and continued to pursue it as he grew older. While his time behind the computer doesn’t get him into the wild unknown as much as he would like, he never misses a chance to head up (or down) a mountain, across a river, or through a lush forest. When he’s not planning new trips, you can always find him typing away on his next project.