Brattleboro skier Spencer Crispe skied every single peak over 3,000 feet in Vermont. Here’s what he found.
In 2015, Spencer Crispe set out to do something that he’s pretty sure no one has ever done before: to climb and ski all 110 Vermont peaks above 3,000 feet in elevation. Each season, he gives himself a window to bag peaks, from Dec. 21 to March 21—the calendar winter. And on Jan. 5, 2020, he summited Middle Jay Peak—his 110th—to finish.
The Brattleboro lawyer and Mount Snow skier has trudged through deep powder, thick branches and into some of the wildest pockets of the state. Crispe, 41, has also hiked the Long Trail and is one of fewer than 100 people to have skied the length of Vermont on the 300-mile-long Catamount Trail. He’s working toward summiting all 770 of the highest peaks in the Northeast and has just 29 left.
Crispe says he still gets recognized from his starring role in Ski Vermont’s humorous “That Guy” series about skier etiquette. There, he played a clueless, out-of-state newbie. In real life, though, he’s a seventh generation Vermonter whose grandfather, Luke Crispe, helped found Stratton Mountain, and who has lived in this state his whole life.
What made you want to ski all 110 Vermont peaks above 3,000 feet?
I had already climbed all the Vermont 3,000-plus footers in the summer. I
started thinking, what if I could be the first person to ski all 110 peaks? I suppose I’ve always been attracted to ludicrous ideas.
Where did you learn to ski?
I’m the third generation in my family to learn to ski at the Brattleboro Ski Hill, but Mount Snow is right out my back door. I’d hiked to ski there a million times, but never climbed to the true summit until I started this venture. To be clear—I learned that some Vermont peaks are just not meant to be skied. About half of the ones I climbed were trail-less. But there were places-—like these amazing open beech glades off of Butterfield Mountain near Groton, or the deep powder on East Ethan Allen, or top-to-bottom skiing I found on Dorset Mountain—where the skiing was so good, I can’t even tell you what it was like.
What kind of skis and gear did you use?
I have never owned nor used skins in my life. For every single mountain, I strapped skis to my back and climbed with a gargantuan pair of Faber Mountain Quest 40-inch snowshoes. With the hellish obstacle course that is a lot of these mountains, skinning would have been virtually impossible and the snowshoes proved indispensable in the insanely deep snow.
I carry a pack with all the gear I need to spend a night out, including a military-grade satellite phone, GPS and other supplies. To save weight, I hike in my Arc’teryx Procline randonnee ski boots and I use short Voile Wasatch Speed Project skis to turn in tight brush. I’ve broken one pair and my snow pants look like a shag rug from all the krummholtz I’ve skied through.
Have you skied at every ski area in Vermont?
I’ve skied every ski area in Vermont (including many of the defunct ones like Hogback) with the exception of Cochran’s, which is a travesty! I really feel I need to get there ASAP.
For this challenge, I snowshoed up every single peak—even when there was a running lift or a road available. On some ski areas, I didn’t take the trail either. For example, on Bromley I ascended Mad Tom Notch and then skied
down the front face where the ski area is.
What have you seen in your travels to Vermont ski areas?
Watching consolidation in the industry, I do think there’s a risk of losing that Vermont quaintness we all love. I like the small feel of places like Mad River Glen or Magic Mountain. I think that’s what drew me into the backcountry, away from parking lots and shuttle buses.
Any revelations from your expeditions?
People don’t realize that there are places in the Vermont backcountry where you can find more snow than you know what to do with. You don’t have to go west for that. You can find some incredible ski lines on peaks of all sizes here.
Hear more about Spencer Crispe’s journeys in the Vermont backcountry at his talk at the Green Mountain Club’s Green Mountain Visitor Center in Waterbury Center on Feb. 13, 2020.
Featured Photo: Spencer Crispe atop one of the many summits he climbed to reach his goal of skiing all the peaks above 3,000 feet in Vermont. Photo by Spencer Crispe.