Pushing Peaks for a Purpose

By Stio Mountain on

Visit the Fundraising Page to support Andrew's Ski For Wishes

Words by Gordy MegrozPhotos by Joe Klementovich

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In March 2021, Andrew Weibrecht and two friends crested the top of a 4,843-foot mountain in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, and were shocked by what they found.

The men had been skinning and skiing since about 4:30 that morning, and the day had turned out exactly as they expected: clear blue skies and warm temperatures. Earlier in the day the trio enjoyed the spoils of the perfect spring day, making slushy turns on corn snow down a 40-degree face on an adjacent mountain. But on the current peak, they found entirely different conditions.

“It was this cool, long slide path—maybe 40 or 50 feet wide—and totally protected,” says Weibrecht. “I don’t think the sun ever hits it at any point of the year. Shockingly, for how hot it was that day, that snow hadn’t transformed at all.”

A few days earlier, six inches of snow fell and strong winds blew, loading a 1,500-foot-long, north-facing slope with 18 inches of cold, light powder.

The men bounded through the powder, enjoying face shots all the way through the narrow gully. “We were totally surprised,” says Weibrecht. “Most of the day had been a long slog—close to 20 miles of ski touring up 7,000 vertical feet—and this was a cool reward for a lot of work.”

It wasn’t the first time during the ski season that Weibrecht had worked hard to earn his turns. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit and ski areas shut down, the 35-year-old set a goal for himself: to skin up and ski down all 46 of the Adirondack Mountains’ high peaks (elevations range from 3,820 to 5,344 feet), an accomplishment that only a handful of skiers have attained.

As somebody who had grown up in the heart of the Adirondacks, in Lake Placid, it was an objective that he’d considered for a long time. Throughout his teenage years, during the summers he’d trek up the surrounding peaks (Weibrecht has summited all 46 high peaks twice), and imagine how fun it would be to ski back down them.

“I remember, as a kid, saying to my older brother that skiing these mountains seemed like the coolest thing you could do,” he says. “I always talked about it and thought about it, but I got a little too busy to actually do it.”

Keeping Weibrecht otherwise engaged was an appointment to the U.S. Ski Team. He’d grown up training on Whiteface Mountain, the nearby ski area that hosted alpine racing events during the 1980 Winter Olympics. By the time he was 16, he was representing America in events across the globe.

Throughout his racing career, Weibrecht proved himself a big-event skier. In 2010, at the Vancouver Olympics, he took home a bronze medal, finishing just four-hundredths of a second behind teammate Bode Miller. Four years later in Sochi, Russia at the same event, he was the twenty-ninth man out of the starting gate and stunned the crowd and a worldwide television audience—many of whom thought the race was over and the medal stand decided—by finishing second.

When Weibrecht retired from racing in 2018, he went to work managing the family business, the Mirror Lake Inn, a luxury resort in Lake Placid. He also started dreaming up challenges that would satiate his athletic drive. But he had no idea just how challenging skiing all 46 Adirondack high peaks would be.

On an early outing, one of his bindings broke and he was forced to abandon the peak and ski back down on one ski. On another tour, he and one of his former U.S. Ski Team teammates, Thomas Biesemeyer, got caught in dense fog midway up one of the mountains.

“We had a moment when we didn’t quite know where we were and we wondered if we’d gotten ourselves into trouble,” says Weibrecht. “The weather in the Adirondacks can be gnarly and unpredictable and that’s made it hard to complete some of these peaks. It took me three tries to ski from the top of Iroquois.”

Fortunately for Weibrecht, he’s had help staying motivated. For a long time, he’s been involved in charity work participating in events with the Kelly Brush Foundation, an organization that helps purchase sports equipment for adaptive athletes. For six years, he has served as a board member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to children who have life-threatening illnesses.

“I became involved when we hosted a little boy named Diego whose wish was to ride down the Olympic bobsled track,” says Weibrecht. “We hosted him and his family at the Mirror Lake Inn.”

When Weibrecht began kicking around the idea of skiing all the Adirondack high peaks, the idea of attaching a charity to the project was a no-brainer. Weibrecht chose Make-A-Wish, encouraging people to donate money in lump sums or certain amounts for each peak he bagged. 

“I feel very fortunate, and I want everybody to have the kind opportunities that I had,” he says. “I like to help other people and doing this for them, in turn, helps keep me going—especially when the weather is bad, or gear breaks, or narrow, hard descents seem unskiable.” 

By the end of last season, Weibrecht had climbed and skied 21 mountains. “I have 25 left, but I saved the easier ones for last,” he says. “That way, I can have little bit more fun with it as I wind down, and, by the end of the spring, I hope to have finished the project.”

Visit the Fundraising Page to support Andrew's Ski For Wishes

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